Jamaica’s tourism industry is strong, solid and on an historic growth path, the island’s tourism top brass declared at the recently concluded Caribbean Tourism Conference (CTC-27) in Aruba.The island’s Minister of Tourism and Industry, Aloun N’dombet Assamba also told travel agents and the media about her government’s vision for the sector, and provided an overview of the new properties and those under development which will add significantly to the inventory of hotel rooms.
“We have developed a ‘Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development’,” she said, which represents the best ideas of Jamaicans for the way forward. The pillars of the plan include growth based on a sustainable market position, enhancement of the visitor experience, community-based tourism development, the building of an inclusive industry, and fostering environmental sustainability.
Local investment is funding several of the projects under development, including Sandals Whitehouse on the south coast, with 80 suites among its 360 rooms, which welcomes its first guests in February. The Sunset Resort Group will launch Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort (formerly Renaissance Jamaica Grande) March 19th with 720 rooms, while Negril Cabins will open under the new name Sunset at the Palms Resort & Spa in January. Country Country in Negril, acquired by the owners of the Coyaba Resort, adds six rooms to the existing 14 this winter with another 50 expected by 2006; while a new SuperClubs hotel, Rooms on the Beach (formerly Club Jamaica) opens in November with 104 rooms and suites.
Jamaica’s tourism officials also estimate that overseas investment will add more than 5,000 rooms to its inventory. For example, earlier this year, Spain’s RIU group opened more than 800 rooms between two properties in Negril, and they have plans for a further 850 in Ocho Rios in a year’s time.
Next year, AM Resorts starts work on four hotels that will create 1,700 rooms in Trelawny, while Grupo Pinero will soon break ground on three new hotels totaling 1,800 rooms in St. Ann. IberoStar has similar plans for 950 rooms over three hotels in Montego Bay.
Harmony Cove, a 1,400-acre beachfront property development, including three luxury hotels, two championship golf courses, a marina, a private airport, as well as manor houses and elegant estate villas, is also in the works between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, while work is in progress for a new ‘Shoppes at Rose Hall’, an upscale shopping, dining and entertainment complex.
Jamaica’s road network and infrastructure is stronger than ever, with multiple stretches of new highway, and improving attractions for visitors. Kingston’s Hip Strip will soon feature a pedestrian zone by night and a selection of sidewalk cafes, while the Prospect Plantation Tour will include a visit to a Jamaican farm, horseback riding and an experience at the popular Dolphin Cove.
While Jamaica expands its tourism offerings, the options for getting to them are also increasing. United Airlines starts twice weekly Chicago-Montego Bay service in December; US Airways begins daily flights from Fort Lauderdale-Kingston next February; there will be a number of new charter services from cities in the US and Canada, while Air Jamaica’s daily service from Toronto since spring has helped increase options for both the Canadian and Caribbean traveler.
“Tourism continues to be a major catalyst for the growth and development of the Jamaican economy,” Minister Assamba assured as she thanked industry partners for their support of the new plans for the destination.
Addressing the international media, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism Paul Pennicook spoke of the island’s close call with Hurricane Ivan, which caused some harm on the Negril West End and the South Coast, but left the wider tourism infrastructure in tact.
While he assured the region that helping its Caribbean neighbours who were more seriously affected by the seasonal storms is still a top priority, he reassured the industry that the island still pursues its tourism development agenda. So, “Jamaica is indeed open for business,” the director told the press, affirming that air service, cruise lines and attractions are back to full throttle in time for the busy winter season.
To keep up the momentum, Jamaica will launch a new ad campaign this fall with the tagline, “Once You Go, You Know”, focusing on the extraordinary diversity, culture and charms of the island - and designed to maintain that growth of the tourism industry.