Gaining significant post-outbreak momentum, U.S. travel to Jamaica surged across 2022. Now, the island’s visitor totals are poised to reach historic levels in 2023, top government officials said this past week.
In an address to Sangster International Airport workers, Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, said the country has secured 1.3 million air seats for the first quarter of 2023. Bartlett also anticipates a “full recovery” of the destination’s cruise business, whose post-outbreak capacity (and arrivals) lagged land-based visitor increases.
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“This winter is going to be the best Jamaica has had,” Bartlett said. The Caribbean nation will host 950,000 land-based, overnight visitors and 524,000 cruise passengers in the first quarter of 2023, he predicted.
“So, that makes it pretty close to 1.5 million visitors for the [winter] season, the largest number of visitors we’ve ever had.” The anticipated surge “is going to take us into a 2023 ending that will be way ahead of 2019, so we will be recovering with growth,” Bartlett added.
Jamaica is poised to end 2022 having recovered 97 percent of 2019’s visitor arrival numbers, said Donovan White, Jamaica’s director of tourism.
JTB officials credit U.S. travel advisors with driving Jamaica’s 2022 visitor growth. This past week, the agency thanked its top 50 travel advisors (based on 2022 bookings) for their efforts at “Jamaica One Love,” a four-day Montego Bay gathering.
The top 50 advisors produced 174,000 room nights between October and September of this year, said Donnie Dawson, Jamaica’s deputy tourism director. The room-night totals account for “roughly 58,000 to 60,000 people,” Dawson said.
JTB’s Jamaica Travel Specialist program has triggered their production, he added, via courses providing information on Jamaica’s natural, cultural and historic attractions.
The program additionally provides sales training for destination wedding, family and special-interest markets, and has accredited 47,000 advisors, said Dawson.
Jamaica Travel Specialists today form the core of advisors who inspire U.S. vacationers to select Jamaica for warm-weather vacations, Dawson said. This year’s most productive advisor, Lindsey Johnson of the Tropics Travel Agency, sold 20,000 room nights, according to JTB officials.
JTB in turn “has never wavered” in its support of agencies and will continue extending FAM opportunities and educational programming to advisors, he added. “The retail travel agent is as strong as ever,” said Dawson.
Complementing Jamaica’s strong relationship with advisors is a positive position regarding airlift.
“This winter, January to April, from the U.S. we have 923,000 airline seats,” said Dawson. “From Canada we have 285,000 seats.”
He said Jamaica this year “hit a trifecta” for tri-state area airline service, adding Frontier Airlines flights to Jamaica from Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport to existing service from New York’s JFK International and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.
“We are predicting a strong, strong winter season,” Dawson said.
Black Travelers Fuel Visitor Upswing
Jamaica’s 2022 visitor numbers were buoyed by a strong increase among African Americans, according to White. “There has been a huge upswing in African American travelers,” he said. “Jamaica, like the rest of the Caribbean, have been the beneficiaries.”
“They are far more immersive, far more engaging [and] far more intuitive about what they do, where they go and what they eat,” said White. “They are very interested in exploring [local] communities.”
He continued, “This is the exactly the kind of traveler our destination wants, not necessarily because they’re African American, but because there is an awakening among these travelers to want more, and there is so much more to Jamaica beyond the beach.”
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