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Jamaica is consistently recognized as a world-class destination: It was recently ranked as the No. 1 best destination in the Caribbean and No. 14 of the 25 best tourist destinations in the world by the 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards. The 2019 Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) held Sept. 9-11 in Montego Bay was designed to build on that success and introduce new products and experiences to the travel trade.
“Tourism is not new to Jamaica,” said Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association. “We are one of the most seasoned and recognized tourism destinations in this hemisphere, and our popularity continues to increase from year to year.”
JAPEX showcases everything Jamaica has to offer and provides travel advisors and tour operators with the opportunity to network with suppliers from across the destination.
“Each year we look forward to welcoming both buyer and supplier delegates,” Robinson said. "We come together to provide and receive updates; inform ourselves of trends and interests in our target markets; and strengthen partnerships and develop new ones that are critical to ensuring the success of this beautiful destination.”
During the JAPEX 2019 media breakfast, Jamaica Tourism Board director Donovan White described important projects in several sectors that are intended to help Jamaica remain a top destination.
“It is indeed a very exciting and critical time for us,” he said. “We are experiencing record-breaking numbers, receiving global recognition like never before and undergoing major developments.”
It is indeed a very exciting and critical time for us. We are experiencing record-breaking numbers, receiving global recognition like never before and undergoing major developments.
Air TravelMore than 60% of visitors to Jamaica arrive from the U.S., with approximately 40% departing from gateways in the Northeast. White noted the valuable addition of direct flights via American Airlines from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. New daily service from Detroit to Montego Bay via Delta has also contributed to growth in airlift to the island.
White also reported that Sangster International Airport is undergoing a 25,800-square-foot expansion of its departure terminal as well as infrastructure improvements to enhance the passenger experience. Plus, he noted, Jamaica now offers an online version of its immigration and customs declaration form for international travelers, which is intended to streamline the arrival process and reduce waiting times.
Hotel DevelopmentWhite highlighted several hotel developments and renovations, including a massive $75million expansion and refurbishment project at the 65-year-old Half Moon Resort, which has added 57 guestrooms and suites to the historic property.
According to Guy Steuart III, chairman of Half Moon Resort, the major redevelopment program will redefine the resort for another six decades of success.
“We want to be respectful of our history, but not be stuck in history,” Steuart said. “Our new Great House is going to be a signature moment for arrival at the destination and will establish a new identity for Half Moon.”
The renovation also includes seven new food and beverage outlets — including the island’s first raw food, vegetarian-dedicated menu — and for the first time, a public oceanfront infinity-edge saltwater pool. Last but certainly not least, the resort added a new room category, which Steuart believes will capture the attention of the travel industry: The 32 brand-new East Cove Cottages, categorized as prestige ocean rooms, are housed in four structures (eight per building) that can be connected or booked individually. These cottages also stray from the resort’s traditional colonial decor; instead, they have a relaxed island feel and colorful artwork by local artists as well as students from Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston.
Additional news regarding Jamaica hotels include the recent reopening of Hotel Riu Ocho Rios after it closed in May for a complete refurbishment of its 790 rooms. Additionally, the first 500 rooms of the 1,000-room Ocean Coral Spring in Trelawny are scheduled to accept guests in November, while the new 220-room AC Hotel Kingston, set in Kingston, opened in June.
“We’re extremely proud to bring this exciting and innovative new product to Jamaica,” said Koen Hietbrink, general manager of AC Hotel Kingston. “The hotel is built in the heart of Kingston with the message to explore the hotel, but also to explore Kingston.”
AttractionsIn his welcome remarks to delegates, the Honorable Audley Shaw, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, stated that the Ministry of Tourism’s emphasis is to develop new tourism products to differentiate Jamaica from other destinations.
“There has been significant investment in building out attractions and experiences and in creating products to enhance Jamaica’s appeal to the growing experiential tourism market,” he said.
One such project recently completed by Jamaica’s Tourism Enhancement Fund is a promenade leading from the marina into the town of Ocho Rios; later, a shopping and dining corridor will be added along that same strip. Also, the first in an ongoing $5.7 million project to create a series of Artisan Villages will open by spring 2020.
“The artisan villages will be a one-stop-shop facility where visitors can see the creation of authentic local crafts," Shaw said. “It will also provide an avenue for Jamaica’s artisans to express their creativity by producing unique indigenous items.”
Jamaica Tourism Board’s White also shared another significant development: the Closed Harbour Beach project, a 16-acre venue that will be similar to Kingston’s Emancipation Park, featuring walking trails, a children’s play area, food kiosks, a boardwalk and an amphitheatre. The multimillion-dollar project is expected to be complete in mid-2020.
The DetailsJamaica Tourism Boardwww.jtbonline.org