A collective “Yeah Mon” might be heard across Jamaica this New Year’s as the island nation celebrates welcoming over 4 million visitors during the past 12 months for the first time in its history.
The historic figure, which again puts the Land of Wood and Water among the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, is particularly important as the tourism industry represents the most important revenue influx for Jamaicans.
Long known for its beautiful beaches, warm waters, and welcoming hospitality, Jamaica has now joined the upper echelon of global destinations because its overall hotel and resort offerings and amenities have consistently improved.
Jamaica Among Elite Travel Destination
Tourism experts point to several factors for the record-breaking numbers – which also include an overall tourism economic impact of close to US$3 billion -- achieved in Jamaica this year.
“(It’s been) a dream year for Jamaica,” said Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett. “We’ve annexed all sorts of new horizons and frontiers.”
Bartlett spoke at a travel industry conference for tour agents in December, held at Moon Palace Jamaica in Ocho Rios, one of the high-end, all-inclusive resorts that have helped make the island so attractive to sophisticated travelers.
“It (is) a truly historic moment for our tourism sector,” Bartlett added.
Donnie Dawson, Jamaica’s acting Director of Tourism, agreed.
“We’re thrilled that the destination is experiencing another record breaking year in 2017,” Dawson told The Travel Current. “Our solid performance is a result of a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors. This is coupled with a strong brand appeal, a great product, a robust public relations effort and the warm hospitality of our people.”
Stars Shine Bright on Island
Both Dawson and Bartlett credited Jamaica’s global exposure on a number of fronts for helping to keep the island-nation forefront in the minds of prospective visitors.
“Jamaica has performed consistently as a leading tourism destination for a number of years due in large measure to the visibility of our top performers not just in tourism, but in sports, music, fashion and food,” notes Dawson.
Bartlett singled out the success and popularity of all-time track and field superstar Usain Bolt as well as the surprising achievements of Davina Bennett, who placed second in the Miss Universe pageant, as bright Jamaican stars who have helped to keep the spotlight on the island throughout the year.
“Jamaica has performed consistently as a leading tourism destination for a number of years due in large measure to the visibility of our top performers not just in tourism, but in sports, music, fashion and food,” Dawson explained.
Culture and Infrastructure
“What is most surprising for many visitors when they get here is the size of the island compared to its huge personality, the diversity of our product and that special vibe that can only be discovered when they get here and feel it.”
Claire Robinson, of Claire Skies Travel in Maryland, seconded Dawson’s belief that the tourism offerings in Jamaica have distinguished it from other destinations in the Caribbean.
“The diversity of the tourism product, the many resort areas (available) allow visitors to return to Jamaica numerous times and have a different experience,” Robinson explained. “The food, the music, the many cultural experiences offered enhances their stay. As Jamaicans will say ‘we are more than a beach, we are a country.’”
Other factors including improved infrastructure, proximity to the United States, and of course, the weather, also give Jamaica a marked advantage over other competing destinations.
“The numerous non-stop flight options to the destination from many US gateways make it easy to get to for every occasion, whether it's a family reunion, girlfriends’ getaway, destination wedding - the latter among the market segments for which the importance of a quick turnaround for wedding guests makes Jamaica a preferred option. With the popularity of the all-inclusive concept, time is money,” Robinson said.
And while the island offers an array of options for every kind of trip, Robinson said that the underlying charm of the people couldn’t be understated when discussing why Jamaica attracts so many visitors.
“(It’s) the genuine warmth of the Jamaican people. In Jamaica everything is "Irie,” she explained, referring to the friendly greeting used in Jamaican patois. “The interaction with visitors provides memories that will live on well beyond the "sea and sand" experience.”