Jamaica’s tourism economy is continuing its resurgent form with the announcement that UK visitor arrivals rose a record 13 percent over the summer holidays. It also enjoyed an 11 percent rise in Irish visitors, despite the financial crisis in Ireland.
The strong gains have been attributed to Jamaica’s popularity come economic good times or bad. Also the Jamaica Tourist Board has been working tirelessly to engage consumers through an increase in online marketing efforts, such as creating three YouTube channels, launching a blog and two Twitter accounts, as well as a VisitJamaica Facebook page which has just reached 100,000 fans.
Elizabeth Fox, Regional Director of Jamaica Tourist Board in UK and Europe, said: “It’s been a very turbulent year for the UK travel industry, however this significant increase in visitor figures shows that the UK travel market is still excited by everything that Jamaica has to offer. It also shows that even in times of austerity, an annual holiday is still required and still very popular, with Jamaica being a top destination of choice.”
The UK and Ireland are two of Jamaica’s most important long haul markets, representing over 10 per cent of total visitation.
The US market has also enjoyed a strong year on the back of improving airlift as well as well as its efforts to excite holidaymakers to the paradise island. The “Once you go you know” marketing campaign has been fronted by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, with a series of TV commercials.
The campaign picked up the World Travel Awards “Face of Travel 2010” – an accolade that acknowledges the celebrity endorsement that has made the biggest contribution to the travel and tourism industry over the past year.
Bolt saw off competition from the likes of David Beckham, Rafael Nadal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kevin Spacey and Kevin Costner to win the coveted award.
Collecting the award on behalf of Bolt, Jamaica’s Minister for Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett said: “Usain Bolt has been a phenomenal face across the globe since the Beijing Olympics. He has done extremely well for us not only in driving Jamaica as a destination, but also providing his talent to create the campaign that has won the ‘Face of Travel’ award.”
Jamaica was also triumphant in a host of other categories, including Sandals Reseorts winning “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company”, Montego Bay “World’s Leading Beach Destination” and “World’s Leading Villa” for Roundhill.
Jamaica’s Director of Tourism John Lynch said: “These awards reaffirm that our tireless efforts to promote destination Jamaica, coupled with continued growth and refurbishment of our tourism infrastructure, have proven a successful strategy in positioning Jamaica as a tourism leader.”
Fears over crime and the merger of Air Jamaica with rival Caribbean Air, in addition to the global tourism slowdown, are just some of the challenges which have recently been overcome by the island community.
But as the destination continues to lead the Caribbean out of recession, what has led to the success? Among recent trends has been its emergence as a regional hub for aviation in the Caribbean.
Air Jamaica recently merged with Caribbean Air to create the largest carrier in the region, with the new airline now offering international passengers unrivalled access to a host of destinations.
Caribbean Air has also recently been joined by Bahamas-owned Western Air in offering flights to the island, with Bartlett welcoming the additional capacity.
“Getting connectivity to a destination is the essence of the ability of that destination to remain attractive,” Mr Bartlett explained.
“It’s no good to have a beautiful, alluring, exciting, enchanting destination with attractions galore if nobody can get there.
“Being able to connect to the destination through airlift is very critical and is a very critical part of the strategy that we have adopted to grow tourism in Jamaica.”
Problems with Air Passenger Duty persist, however, with Mr Bartlett continuing to lobby the UK coalition government over the recent changes to the levy.
Looking towards the winter holiday season, Jamaica expected to attract a total of 1.9 million arrivals by year end.
Despite the number of visitors expected being approximately 100,000 less than originally projected, the new figure of 1.9 million by the end of the year would be the highest number of arrivals the country has ever seen in one year.