|Paul Pennicook, Jamaica's director of tourism|
With the 2015/2016 winter tourist season set to get underway on December 15, Paul Pennicook, Jamaica’s director of tourism, is anticipating positive growth this winter.
This optimism comes on the heels of what he believes was a robust 2014/2015 season.
“We’re coming off a very strong winter last year and this year we’re going to be having over 1,200 more rooms online operating – new as well as refurbished, and we have 65,000 additional airline seats with over 50,000 from the United States,” said Pennicook in a written release. “So with additional room inventory, increased air seats and with a strong advertising program in place, we are looking forward to a positive winter season.”
According to statistics from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), between January to September of this year the island recorded over 1.6 million stopover arrivals, an increase of 2.4 percent over the same period in 2014. With regard to cruise passenger arrivals, the January to September period saw the destination welcome over 1.1 million arrivals from 320 ship calls at three major ports, an increase of 10.4 percent or more than 100,000 passengers than the corresponding period in 2014.
The Tourism Director believes that despite a fairly flat summer, the destination has performed creditably to date. “We are still running ahead of last year in terms of stopover arrivals and cruise arrivals. We had a very strong winter…a 5 percent growth, however a bit less in the summer primarily due to number of rooms which were taken out for refurbishing,” noted Pennicook.
Growth Projections for 2016
As 2015 draws to a close, Pennicook is looking forward to 2016 with great optimism and is forecasting continued growth for the island’s tourism sector.
“We are projecting an increase of at least four percent over 2015, and that’s globally, and as usual a substantial amount of that is from our major source market, the United States,” said Pennicook.
Despite the challenges in the marketplace, Jamaica continues to hold its own in a very competitive environment. The tourism director attributes this success to the strength of Brand Jamaica.
“Jamaica has the most diverse product in the Caribbean," said Pennicook. "Separate and apart from our beaches which many islands have, we have rivers, mountains, our cuisine, the music and of course the people. It is the strength of the product that keeps visitors coming back and of course it drives the decision of first time visitors”.
Jamaica’s diversity is unparalleled with a wide range of accommodation offerings: all-inclusives for singles, couples, families, and adults; villas and apartments, guest houses, etc. In terms of attractions, this sector has experienced strong growth over the last few years, with visitors having a range of options from which to choose: from soft adventure activities such as river tubing, zip lining, climbing the falls, and horseback riding to cultural, historical, and heritage tours.
Jamaica Attracts Major Hotel Brands
Jamaica’s hotel sector has witnessed a significant boost in recent years with the destination attracting some of the world’s leading hotel brands. On December 1, the 130-room Courtyard by Marriott in Kingston officially opened its doors. Also on December 1, The Cliff Hotel and Spa, formerly Moon Dance Cliffs, had its official opening. The stunning villa and boutique hotel on Jamaica’s West End, reopened under the leadership of The Vagabond Group led by visionary developer Avra Jain, who teamed up with hospitality industry veteran Mary Phillips and culinary giants Delius Shirley and Chef Cindy Hutson.
In mid-December, the 226-room Braco Village Hotel & Spa in Trelawny will reopen as the Melia Braco Village after a $1-billion upgrade. The Trelawny-based resort will be the Spanish chain’s first property in Jamaica.
AMResorts continued its expansion in Jamaica with signing of a management deal with Sunset Beach Resort & Spa and The Oasis. On December 23, the properties will begin operating under the new name Sunscape Splash and Sunscape Cove, respectively.
In addition, the 730-room Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, after extensive renovation and refurbishing will have its first winter season. Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa, the former Sunset Jamaica Grande, was acquired by the Mexico-based Palace Resorts in September 2014. This is Palace Resorts’ first foray outside of Mexico.
Opening of Cuba Presents Tremendous Opportunities
Pennicook believes the opening up of Cuba to the United States as a tourist destination should provide numerous opportunities for the sector in Jamaica. Adding that, as a destination Jamaica has been competing with Cuba in a number of markets, namely Latin America, Europe and Canada for many years.
“We’re confident that as long as we continue to promote the diversity and strength of the Jamaican product we can compete with anyone. The opening up of Cuba to the U.S., we see it as more of an opportunity rather than a threat," said Pennicook. "And so we intend as much as possible to do dual destination packages with them so instead of taking market share from us, we can both benefit from new visitors that will be coming to the region."