Jamaica Rides the Momentum

A cruise ship docked at Ocho Rios in Jamaica
photo by johany iStock Getty Images Plus Getty Images


Jamaica's resort capital, Montego Bay, may have an added attraction with a casino possibly opening by year-end


While most Caribbean islands reported anywhere from a slight decrease to a whopping 20 percent dip in tourist arrivals last year, Jamaica is boasting the opposite. At a media luncheon in New York City hosted by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) earlier this month, Travel Agent learned the country saw approximately a 4.5 percent increase in tourist arrivals in 2009 compared to 2008.


Jamaica saw approximately a 4.5 percent increase in tourist arrivals in 2009 over 2008

New flights from such carriers as Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and JetBlue contributed to the success, says Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s minister of tourism. And with more flights in the offing, new attractions and notable industry events such as the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) in May, Bartlett says he won’t be surprised to see that number quadruple this year.

Casinos to Open by Year-End

If things go as planned, Jamaica could open its first casino as early as the end of this year. We’ve been following the country’s plans to legalize casinos since the news first broke nearly a year and a half ago; it looks as though plans are finally coming to fruition.

Bartlett says legislation to introduce casino gaming may be approved within the first quarter of this year with the first casino expected to begin operating by the end of 2010.

The government, Bartlett says, is ironing out details and regulations about the facilitation of casinos and which companies would get approval to build them. What we already know is that three developers, including Harmony Cove and Celebration Jamaica, have expressed interest in building casinos. None of the three will be stand-alone operations, he says, nor will any casinos in the future.

According to Bartlett, unlike most Caribbean islands that allow gaming, locals will likely be allowed to gamble but will be discouraged from doing so. Although the country doesn’t want to exclude its citizens from a right they will offer to tourists, Jamaica is looking into ways of “making it less attractive for Jamaicans to come,” he explains, meaning that the country may only have casinos in places where locals are less likely to congregate.

Although there is no official cap on the number of casinos that will be allowed in the country, “three” seems to be the figure for some time to come, with one casino planned to open in Montego Bay, another in Ocho Rios and the last on the southern side of the country.

Montego Bay to Host Travel Trade Show

Jamaica’s resort capital, Montego Bay, will again be on display as it hosts the 20th annual JAPEX from May 11-13 at the luxurious Half Moon (see video below). Hosted by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the JTB, JAPEX, the island’s premier travel trade show, gives Jamaican tourism product suppliers the opportunity to meet with travel wholesalers and tour operators from Europe and the Americas in a professionally organized business environment.

Jamaica’s tourist industry has been undergoing a continuous growth process, with new and expanded hotels, exciting new attractions and enhancements from allied product and service providers.

According to JHTA President Wayne Cummings, JAPEX will allow attendees to see firsthand all the major developments that are making Jamaica an even more desirable tourist destination.

Beyond this year, Jamaica plans to host one of the most influential Caribbean tradeshows, Caribbean Marketplace. The JTB said the island would host the event in 2011 in the brand-new Montego Bay Convention Center, which is slated to open in November this year.

New Flights Added

As if the slew of daily flights introduced in 2009 wasn’t enough, Bartlett says AirTran Airways, a popular low-cost carrier, will be making its way to Jamaica next month. Starting February 10, AirTran will fly daily to Montego Bay from Baltimore and Atlanta, and four times a week from Orlando.

New Markets

While the U.S. and Canada continue to be Jamaica’s biggest moneymakers, Bartlett predicts the island will soon be the target of other countries for investments and tourism partnerships. In Latin America, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador, all are targeted markets, while other countries such as Russia, Germany and China are also on the radar.

The JTB, founded in 1955, is Jamaica’s national tourism agency based in the capital city, Kingston. JTB offices can also be found in Montego Bay, Miami, Toronto and London, and its representative offices are in Düsseldorf, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam and Tokyo. For details on upcoming special events, attractions and accommodations on the island, visit the JTB website or call 800-526-2422.



Montego Bay’s Half Moon resort will be the venue for the 20th annual JAPEX in May