Jamaica tourism officials plan to attract more visitors to the country by increasing offerings in health and wellness, gastronomy and shopping. // © 2016 Jamaica Tourism Board
Feature image (above): Half Moon Resort hosted several attendees of this year’s annual Jamaica Product Exchange. // © 2016 Jamaica Tourism Board
At the 26th annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), held April 29 to May 1 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, the Jamaican Tourism Board unveiled a number of brand-new hotel developments, tours and activities, as well as a new road.
A key focus of tourism minister Edmund Bartlett's administration appears to be growth of tourism in the name of prosperity for the Jamaican people.Bartlett believes this will be achieved by the new highway, as well as by new tours and hotel developments.
"One of our main goals is to ensure the sustainable development of our nation and an improved standard of living for every Jamaican," he said. "The tourism industry will be instrumental in achieving these targets. It is a sector that has the potential to stimulate wide-scale economic activity, drive new growth in our communities, generate the jobs we need so badly and earn billions of dollars in foreign exchange. Tourism is therefore ideally positioned to become a powerful catalyst for improving the socio-economic conditions of our people."
The recent completion of the $730 million north-south link of the 143-mile Highway 2000 cuts driving time between Kingston and Montego Bay by more than an hour, providing added possibilities for visitors looking for tours and activities beyond those offered on a just one side of the island.
The road now also affords cruise ship passengers stopping in the port of Ocho Rios the option of day trips to historical and cultural sites in Kingston and Spanish Town, as well as an unprecedented opportunity for guests in Ocho Rios to fly into Montego Bay or Kingston with the same travel time.
Tours and Activities
The latest edition to Island Routes Caribbean Adventures’ Let's Go Native tour series takes advantage of the new stretch of Highway 2000, inviting guests staying in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios on a full-day excursion onboard a luxury coach to Kingston.
Meanwhile, Ocho Rios-based destination management company Tourwise Limited has introduced nine new tours; Chukka partner Good Hope estate in Montego Bay is developing a new water adventure park on Martha Brae River, slated to open by November; and Jamwest Motorsports and Adventure Park has introduced a new ATV excursion on the beach, as well as a race-car adventure in Negril.
"We will be ramping up our efforts to … expand into areas of tourism such as health and wellness, gastronomy and shopping,” Bartlett said during the JAPEX opening ceremony. “This will help to attract more visitors to the island, as well as generate additional earnings."
The new portion of the highway is already enabling numerous tour companies to provide coffee-related tours and experiences at the 64,870-acre Blue and John Crow Mountains, recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Jamaica Culinary Tours has a new 5.5-hour bus tour featuring five food-and-beverage tastings from Falmouth to St. Ann; the tour length and proximity has been especially designed with cruise-ship passengers in mind.
Tourwise Limited is also offering several new gastronomy-themed tours, including a rum tour and a Jamaican cooking experience.
During the conference, Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay reminded delegates and the media of its recent split from RockResorts after a five-year partnership.
“For nearly 56 years, Half Moon operated as an independent hotel, defining itself as unique and one of the finest destination resorts in the Caribbean,” said Guy Steuart III, chairman of Half Moon’s board of directors. "What makes Half Moon iconic and a desirable vacation destination isn’t just pretty buildings and nice beaches. More important, it is a legacy we inherit from the people who preceded us, teaching us what it means to be dedicated to service and hospitality; and it is the people here today who carry on those lessons.”
Hotel developments announced for 2017 include a new property in Kingston from The Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, as well as the opening of Spanish Court Montego Bay, which will be converted from the current Breezes Montego Bay and designed by Jamaica-born Allison Antrobus.
Also in Montego Bay, construction of the 228-room all-inclusive Royalton Blue Waters next to Royalton White Sands is expected to be completed by the end of the year.