How’s this for irony? While reports of violence are crippling tourism on other islands in the Caribbean, Jamaica, which has long had a stigma for crime and violence, is riding high.
In fact, the Jamaica Tourist Board reported a strong start in tourism arrivals for 2009, with 148,886 total stopover arrivals for January, which represents an increase of 4.2 percent over the same period in 2008.
Furthermore, for the first month of this year, Jamaica welcomed 80,190 visitors from the U.S. and just under 40,000 visitors from Canada. Preliminary figures for February also reflected this growth trend, showing an increase of 1.3 percent. Even more encouraging are the preliminary figures for the first week of March, which showed a 12.9 percent increase over the corresponding period last year.
Here are just a few reasons why we feel Jamaica will keep these numbers up for 2009 and beyond.
View of GoldenEye Island Outpost
GoldenEye is adding a multimillion-dollar, high-end resort village to its exclusive property in Oracabessa, St Mary. Completion of the mixed-use residential and full-service resort is set for December 2010 and will feature approximately 200 guest rooms spread over 60 acres of coastal land. The property will include its own spa, swimming pools and a lagoon. The development is in its first phase, which includes the strengthening of the seacoast and work on the lagoon.
Couples Ocho Rios closed last March for refurbishments and is expected to reopen any day now as Couples Tower Isle. The 206-room resort is undergoing a $15 million upgrade that will include the construction of an additional three-floor complex of 20 rooms, refurbishing of the existing bars and main lobby and the creation of a new swim-up pool bar and state-of-the-art spa. Upon completion, the resort will offer 226 guest rooms.
SuperClubs recently announced a decision to realign, elevate and expand its Breezes brand. On November 1, the two AAA Four Diamond Grand Lido properties will change their names; the Grand Lido Negril Resort & Spa will be renamed Breezes Grand Negril Resort & Spa, while the Grand Lido Braco Resort & Spa will be changed to Breezes Rio Bueno Resort & Spa. The Starfish Trelawny will also be rebranded as Breezes Trelawny.
A rendering of a bedroom at Secrets St. James
AMResorts broke ground for its Secrets St. James and Secrets Montego Bay resorts in December, marking the debut of the Secrets brand in Jamaica. The side-by-side resorts, located at the Montego Bay Freeport, will feature 700 rooms and are scheduled to open by the end of the year. The two resorts, which share a common area, will feature 14 bars, lounges and gourmet á la carte restaurants, spas with oceanfront massage cabanas, a private concierge on every guest floor, an open-air theater and a full array of activities.
Solís The Palmyra Resort & Spa, the island’s first luxury beachfront residential community, is set to open in September on 16 acres of pristine waterfront land on the Rose Hall estate. Solís The Palmyra offers 299 beautifully appointed guest rooms plus one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom suites, penthouses and private villas that feature between 645 and 2,600 square feet of living space with large private terraces.
The living and dining area of a suite at Solis The Palmrya Resort & Spa
Iberostar Resorts now has three hotels on the island—Iberostar Rose Hall Beach & Spa Resort, Iberostar Rose Hall Suites and Iberostar Rose Hall Grand Hotel. The first property opened in May 2007, and the third this past January. The $850 million development offers a total of 978 rooms.
The Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston was recently transformed from a well-known themed shopping complex into a business hotel. This property, located in the heart of the New Kingston business district, began taking guests on February 1. The hotel offers 110 rooms and also features a pool bar, restaurant and business center.
The Port Authority of Jamaica is spearheading the development of a new cruise ship pier at Falmouth, which is scheduled to open in March 2010. Upon completion, the Falmouth port will have the capacity to handle two 5,400-passenger Royal Caribbean Genesis-size ships simultaneously. The cruise terminal and shops will be themed on the Georgian architecture for which the town of Falmouth is known.
Improvements have been made to both the Montego Bay and Ocho Rios Piers. Montego Bay’s Berth 2 Terminal has been converted to a relaxing, air-conditioned area for cruise passengers. The Port Authority of Jamaica plans additional improvements for both ports, and preliminary plans are on the drawing board for the development of new piers at the East Harbor in Port Antonio and at Port Royal, just outside Kingston.
Montego Bay Convention Centre
On February 14, ground was broken in Rose Hall to begin construction of the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The facility will be built on 35 acres of land opposite the Shoppes at Rose Hall and is expected to be completed in 20 months. The Centre is designed to be a modern facility, capable of hosting large and small meetings, conferences, exhibitions, banquets, weddings and other events. It will feature more than 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, more than 20,000 square feet of banquet facilities and more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
The island’s recent deal with JetBlue Airways for daily nonstop service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport has received a lot of positive feedback. The flights are slated to launch in late May and the Jamaica Tourist Board has also reached a contract with JetBlue’s in-house tour operator, JetBlue Getaways.
The Ocho Rios-to-Port Antonio segment of the North Coast Highway construction continues, and is expected to be completed by the summer.
JAPEX Right Around the Corner
The Jamaica Tourist Board is reminding all professional travel industry journalists of the upcoming Jamaica Annual Product Exchange (JAPEX), which will take place at the Ritz-Carlton, Montego Bay from May 11-14.