Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica -- It's an "exciting and critical time" for Jamaica, Donovan White the country's director of tourism, said in his speech at the opening of the Jamaica Annual Product Exchange (Japex) here.

"We are experiencing record-breaking numbers, receiving global recognition like never before and undergoing major developments."

The director shared that Jamaica's tourism industry is poised to achieve "year-on-year growth in stopover arrivals and earnings."

Stopover visitors are up 9.1%, to 1.9 million through August compared with the same timeframe in 2018. The projection for 2019 is 2.7 million arrivals, an 8.4% jump over last year, according to White.

Airlift continues to grow, and not just from the U.S. the United Kingdom and Latin America; two airlines are interested in operating weekly Moscow-Montego Bay flights.

As for hotel development, that sector is robust, according to Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association.

His rundown of ongoing projects covered properties in various stages of development: the 220-room AC Hotel by Marriott that opened in Kingston in June; Half Moon's 57 new suites opening by December, as the latest segment of the property's $75 million renovation project; the Oceans by H10 project in Trelawny; the first 500 rooms of the 1,000-room Ocean Coral Spring Hotel opening in November; 45 new rooms at the Rio Ocho Rios in October; and 3,000 rooms planned by Karisma in St. Ann.

"Jamaica has approximately 80,000 rooms across all price points, with Montego Bay having the largest number of rooms: 32,839 in hotels, guest houses, villas and apartments," Robinson said.

In addition, Ocho Rios has a new promenade from the cruise pier to the heart of town; an artisan village at Hampden Wharf in Falmouth will open next spring with 42 artisans; the Closed Harbour Beach project in Montego Bay, which will be a park with walking trails and an amphitheater, will debut in mid-2020.

Sangster Airport in Montego Bay plans to expand its departure terminal as well as its new commercial area, which will focus on Jamaican specialty products and handicrafts.

The arrival process for international travelers is now easier, since the immigration and customs declaration forms are available online prior to leaving the U.S. Using the form really sped up my arrival process and reduced the wait times in lines for both immigration and customs.

"With the development of a new brand marketing campaign readying for launch in October, we are extremely upbeat about a strong finish to 2019 and a very strong start to 2020," White said, adding that "Jamaica is a gem. We live it, love it and believe in it."

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