MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The Jamaica Tourist Board announced Monday morning that the destination has seen a 14 percent increase in arrivals for the first three weeks of 2011, a new record for Jamaica.
The board also announced that its long-time plan to place casinos on the island could come to fruition very soon. Construction is slated to begin on Jamaica's first casino this year, “just a stone’s throw away from the new Montego Bay Conference Center,” said Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism.
The news came during a media breakfast at the Half Moon resort, hosted by the hotel and the Jamaica Tourist Board as part of the ongoing 2011 Caribbean Marketplace.
“Fourteen percent is 10,000 people,” said John Lynch, director of tourism. “We can all relate to that. That fills a lot of hotel rooms.”
Bartlett noted that a boost of 10,000 visitors equated to roughly an additional $10.5 million in extra earnings for the country. The positive numbers for January are good indicators that Jamaica’s trend of annual increases could continue. The country saw a 3.9 percent annual increase in 2007, a 3.6 percent spike in 2008, a very similar increase in 2009 and a 4.7 percent spike in 2010, according to Bartlett.
With the addition of the new Montego Bay Conference Center, which is about 80 percent finished and is hosting the conference; the expected March 22 opening of the new Falmouth Pier cruise port and the 2011 construction of the island’s first-ever casino, it’s likely those numbers will continue to rise.
The initial license will be given out for the first casino this year. Construction on that facility is also expected to get underway this year in Montego Bay. The long term plan, Bartlett said, is for two additional licenses to be handed out in the future. Casinos will be located in the Trelawny Parish, the West end of the island, and Montego Bay, he said.
The initial cap on the licenses is in place because, “we do not want Jamaica to become a casino destination but rather a destination that has casinos,” Bartlett said.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more updates from our ongoing coverage of the 2011 Caribbean Marketplace.
PHOTO: Jamaica Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett speaks, flanked by officials of the Half Moon Resort and Jamaica Tourist Board. (Joe Pike)