Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Even as the pace of new hotel construction in Jamaica shows no sign of slowing down, the country appears to be close to an agreement with Airbnb to drive growth within the tourism sector, similar to the agreement signed earlier this month between Airbnb and Aruba.

At a recent meeting in Jamaica with tourism minister Edmund Bartlett, Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb's public policy lead for the Caribbean and Central America, said that the market for Airbnb in Jamaica is growing rapidly.
The site accounted for 2,300 active hosts and 4,000 active listings in the past year, a mix of private homes and a private room or space in someone's home, according to Sullivan.

A memorandum of understanding is slated to be drafted and signed at a later date.

Bartlett reportedly is optimistic about the potential impact of the Airbnb partnership on the country, especially for community tourism outside of the major tourist areas.

Meanwhile, construction cranes dot the Jamaican landscape.

The most recent openings included the Riu Reggae and Royalton Blue Waters in Montego Bay, and the Royalton Negril and the Hideaway at Royalton Negril are slated for mid-January debuts. Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay opened five overwater bungalows this month with 12 more coming on board in February. Construction is slated to commence on 2,300 more rooms across several Palladium Hotel Group brands this coming winter.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts, which plans to open a second Jamaica hotel next year, will break ground early next year on its $800 million Sugarcane project on the north coast that may include as many as 10 hotels totaling 6,900 rooms within the next decade.

Jamaica hopes to add 15,000 hotel rooms over the next five years to bring total inventory to 40,000 rooms, Bartlett said.

In addition, the destination appears to be firmly on the path to welcoming at least four million visitors this year, up from 3.7 million in 2015. Numbers at the half-year mark totaled 2.1 million air and sea visitors, a 7.5% increase year over year, according to the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Bartlett already is looking ahead to 2017, when his goal is five million visitors.

"Jamaica is poised for great things. Investor confidence is high, and we are seen more and more as a first-choice destination," he said.

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