While the 27th annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) conference has now come to an end in Montego Bay, the vibe continues stronger than ever as Jamaica moves forward with its bold agenda to reposition itself as a sustainable and ‘total destination.’ This will ensure Jamaica will be responsive to the needs of not only today’s visitors but future ones as well, across all demographics.
During a media breakfast at the luxurious, new Jewel Grand Montego Bay Resort & Spa, the message was loud and clear: Jamaica is open and ready for business, with upgrades and improvements being made to all facets of the country’s tourism industry - all so that Jamaica will continue delivering on the promise to provide a world-class experience.
PILLARS OF GROWTH FOR JAMAICA
Jamaica’s tourism growth is currently outperforming its projected growth target of five per cent (per annum over the next five years). As of Sept. 24, 2017, tourism is up 7.1 per cent, putting it two points ahead. The minister happily reported: “the response we are getting from the marketplace is that Jamaica’s tourism growth is going to move into double digits next year.” For the rest of this year, Jamaica is expecting a “bounce,” primarily from cruise lines and increased air lift activity to the island.
Minister Bartlett recently indicated that “Canada has become the growth centre for Jamaica. In terms of straight growth, no market has grown as fast as Canada did over the last 12 months.”
Canada’s Jamaica Tourist Board, led by Director, Philip Rose, has been the catalyst to achieve such positive results along with the tour operators serving Jamaica. On Oct 4, Sunwing Airlines’ President & CEO Andrew Dawson shared with PAXnews that the tour operator will surpass the 100,000 seat mark this season as Jamaica grows in popularity. Dawson told PAX that he attributes the growth to new hotels offered by Sunwing, including properties from companies such as RIU, Royalton and Jewel.
Minister Bartlett, shared that while Jamaica’s traditional sun, sea and sand offerings will continue to be Jamaica’s flagship campaign position, diversification of its tourism product is key: “We know people travel to fulfill their passions and we know that technology is not just giving them information about what’s really happening but through virtual reality, they are experiencing the destination before they get here. They’re making decisions before they even talk to you, so we need to be on the cutting edge. We need to be providing them content so that they will be able to make decisions in our favour.” To be recognized as a ‘total destination’ is in the forefront with the following five distinct areas of growth opportunity:
GASTRONOMY – Jamaica has several efforts underway to be known as a premier gastronomy destination within the Caribbean region; earlier this year, the Devon House in St. Andrew was designated as Jamaica’s first gastronomy Centre. Gastronomy tourism provides an opportunity to add value to Jamaica’s tourism sector giving visitors the opportunity to experience and appreciate a selection of the island’s cuisine. The first prototype will be presented on Nov. 30, the day after the United Nations World Tourism Conference (UNWTO), hosted in Jamaica, which will be the biggest conference in the region. Minister Bartlett indicated that “88 per cent of the people who travel the world, travel for food experiences. Jamaica wants to be right there. We don’t have wines but we have great rums and the best coffee in the world”
SHOPPING – According to Minister Bartlett, “We (Jamaica) have not been known as a shopping destination, but we have to because the main markets we’re going after are the markets that are looking for the shopping experience”. In order to help attract the big-name brands and land Jamaica among the big shopping destinations, the country will be looking at revising current legislations in relation to enabling a broader and wider scheduling of dutiable goods such as leather and textiles.
MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT – Jamaica is notorious for its music culture and as part of the marketing program for the destination, will work to structure its offerings in an organized way to provide for a variety of musical entertainment experiences. The minister stated that “we should really be the place where you’re getting 24/7 reggae and other musical presentations because we are a music culture.” To facilitate this effort and make Jamaica the number one entertainment centre in the region, investments in infrastructures, such as the introduction of recording studios and performance centres as well as expanding existing entertainment facilities, are being pursued.
HEALTH & WELLNESS - Jamaica has been tapping into health and wellness tourism as yet another pillar of growth. The minister spoke of the country’s two finest natural hot springs – The Milk River Bath in Clarendon and the Bath Fountain in St. Thomas – indicating that private/public partnerships are being sought to improve and expand the mineral spa facilities. With a rich biodiversity, Jamaica is also taking strides in the nutraceutical industry.
KNOWLEDGE - To ensure that the destination has the best workers in its tourism sector, Jamaica is investing in education for travel and hospitality employees. According to Minister Bartlett, these measures include the establishment of the Caribbean’s first centre of tourism for innovation (opening the week of Oct. 20), along with an emphasis on building English language skills with programs offered in the country’s post-secondary institutions. “We are spending time also in building the human capacity,” he said. “This institution is going to be a game changer in the professional development of the people working in the tourism industry.” The United Nations World Tourism Conference (UNWTO) this November will also be the biggest statement of Jamaica’s commitment for knowledge tourism as the island is working to establish itself as a destination where people can come, discuss and collaborate on matters that are critical for tourism.
ACCOMMODATIONS UPDATE – What’s new?
Mr. Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, shared with attendees that “it’s an exciting time in Jamaica. A lot of focus is being put on the accommodations sector so that we can compete locally, regionally and internationally.” Robinson went on to explain the full thrust of new activities happening around new builds as well as significant improvements to existing accommodations in order to compete with the new products coming on-stream.
Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association
Jamaica appears to be right on track to achieving 15,000 plus rooms over the next 5 years and here are just a few of the new and renovated properties PAXnews got to visit:
Breathless Montego Bay
Breathless Montego Bay (AM Resorts) - Opened Feb. 2017 (150-suite resort) Boasting a chic design and state-of-the-art technology, guests can enjoy free Wi-Fi and in-room tablets. With the only rooftop pool and bar in Jamaica, a beach club, fire pits, cabanas, five bars and lounges, and theme parties, Breathless Montego Bay Resort & Spa provides the ultimate party experience. This brand-new resort takes Unlimited-Luxury to the next level, offering guests full access to all amenities at the nearby Secrets St. James Montego Bay and Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay. Free flow access to both properties allows guests to enjoy 18 additional bars and restaurants, and to indulge in the romantic atmosphere that Secrets Resorts & Spas is known for. Check out images from PAXnews' site visit to Breathless! www.breathlessresorts.com
Jewel Grande (Aimbridge Hospitality) – Opened Sept. 25, 2017 (217 butler-appointed suites and stately villas) – Formerly the Palmyra Resort, this property celebrated its reopening during JAPEX as the luxurious Jewel Grande, the ultimate all-inclusive luxury resort in Jamaica. This property in Montego Bay adds 400+ rooms to Jamaica’s room inventory (217 rooms + 2 & 3-bedrooms suites) includes tremendous views, butler service for every room, a world-class full-service spa, two sparkling swimming pools, a state-of-the-art fitness facility, private beachside cabanas and gorgeous accommodations with butler service and a dazzling array of other amenities. Only 15 minutes from Sangster Airport. Check out images from PAXnews' site visit to Jewel Grande! www.jewelgrande.com
Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach Resort – Opened February 2017 (146 rooms) - Decameron Hotels continue its expansion and development, opening a third hotel in Jamaica. Positioned as the newest all-inclusive hotel on the island of Jamaica, with 146 sea-view rooms, this resort is comfortably located on the northwest coast of the island, on one of the best beaches in the Montego Bay area and only five minutes from the Montego Bay International Airport, close to shopping areas and the vibrant centre of Montego Bay. In 2018, the property’s Kids Club will undergo an expansion to further enhance the family vacation experience. www.decameron.com
Royalton Negril Resort & Spa / Hideaway at Royalton Negril
Royalton Negril Resort & Spa / Hideaway at Royalton Negril – Opened March 31, 2017
The grounds of Royalton Negril and Hideaway underwent a total transformation that involved the removal of the existing resort, and the construction of eleven ocean front buildings each with exclusive swim-out suites, a choice of pools, a splash park and more than eight luxury restaurants including an expansive buffet that serves fresh specialties. The resort features three distinct sections – Choose from the family-friendly resort, a Diamond Club area for superior service or enjoy the ultimate luxury of the adults-only Hideaway at Royalton Negril. Check out images from PAXnews' site visit to the Royalton!
Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort
Sandals Resorts International– It was confirmed directly with PAXnews that only two resorts in the entire chain are temporarily closed for maintenance projects & repairs:
- Beaches Turks & Caicos (closed following the passage of Hurricane Irma) – will reopen Dec 14, 2017
- Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa – will reopen on Dec 17, 2017
As for its Jamaica-based properties, the following update was provided:
Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island – New Over-the-Water Bungalows!
In December 2016, Sandals Resorts unveiled the much-anticipated Over-the-Water Villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean to unparalleled demand, with an additional twelve Over-the-Water Bungalows debuting in March 2017. PAXnews was told that these “in demand” accommodations are now sold out through to November 2018! The Over-the-Water villas are built along a beautiful wooden boardwalk and are connected to land at Sandals Royal Caribbean’s offshore private island, Sandals Cay. An experience onto itself, the island features a newly redesigned pool with a signature pool-bar; two restaurants including The Jerk Shack, offering authentic rustic cuisine and Royal Thai, capturing the flavors of the East; and number of nestled hideaways. This Luxury Included resort also recently debuted newly renovated Romeo & Juliet Suites and Windsor Beachfront Club Level rooms. Check out images from PAXnews site visit to Sandals Royal Caribbean!
Sandals Montego Bay – Brand new suite categories available!
Several brand-new suite categories are now available for booking for travel beginning this December 2017. These six new rooms feature many luxurious amenities, including king-size wood beds, HD Smart TVs and various other custom-made furnishings. The lavish spa-style bathrooms include an expansive walk-in shower, long-vessel double sink and custom back-lit mirrors. The two new luxurious room categories at Sandals Montego Bay available for travel Dec. 16, 2017 include:
- Beachfront Swim-up One-Bedroom Grande Butler Suite with Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub
- Beachfront Honeymoon One-Bedroom Grande Butler Suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub
The four new luxurious room categories at Sandals Montego Bay available for travel Dec. 23, 2017 include:
- Crystal Lagoon Swim-up One-Bedroom Butler Suite with Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub
- Crystal Lagoon Honeymoon Oceanview One-Bedroom Butler Suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub
- Crystal Lagoon Swim-up Club Level Luxury Room with Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub
- Crystal Lagoon Honeymoon Oceanview Luxury Room with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub
Sandals South Coast– Newly renovated!
This resort has had a complete transformation – a multi-million renovation project including an expansion of Sandals Resorts’ recently introduced ‘over-the-water’ concept, with the addition of 12 high demand over-the-water bungalows accessible via a heart shaped pier (opens Nov. 1, 2017); Sandals’ first dedicated over-the-water bar called Latitudes, where guests can enjoy their cocktails in hammocks suspended above the Caribbean Sea; an over-the-water wedding chapel with breathtaking 360-degree, panoramic water views and a glass floor aisle. Beyond the water, additional completed renovations include upgrades to the resort’s existing five restaurants as well as four all new 5-Star Global Gourmet dining options: Sushi on the Sand; Beach Picnic, where Butler guests can have a romantic picnic on the beach; Jerk Shack, a dining option with open-air seating and rustic vibe that serves authentic jerk dishes; and Schooner’s, which serves Caribbean fare. www.sandals.com/southcoast
Zoëtry Montego Bay (AM Resorts)- Opened December 2016 (49-suite boutique haven) Introducing the Endless Privileges® experience to the island of Jamaica, guests of Zoëtry Montego Bay will enjoy full rejuvenation with offerings such as organic, fresh and locally grown ingredients in each meal at their three à la carte gourmet dining options with 24-hour in-suite dining always available. Wellness and spiritual offerings include a spa with peaceful gardens, yoga and meditation areas and a fitness center. Outdoor whirlpools, an infinity pool, a flowing swimming pool winding throughout the resort and other water elements complete the idyllic and enchanting experience at Zoëtry Montego Bay. www.zoetryresorts.com/montego-bay
Additionally, the former Wyndham hotel in Kingston is currently being renovated by the Courtleigh Group and coming on-stream by the middle of next year. The Renfrew Hotel, also under construction in Kingston is anticipated to open next year. Overall, the industry offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from the small more intimate bed and breakfasts settings to the larger, upscale luxury resorts from all-inclusive to European Plan. While substantial developments are happening within the all-inclusive arena, ample areas along the island exist where further development is possible to continue and grow Jamaica’s EP segment of the market.
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