Jamaica’s tourist numbers hot as Big Chill freezes north

Jamaica’s winter bookings are pacing above last year this time, with the return of a buoyant meetings and incentive (MICE) market playing a major role in the country’s earning potentials.

“We are having a fantastic season, and the strong winter in Canada always helps,” Fernando Garcia, director of sales, Jamaica, for six AMResorts properties, told The Gleaner during Caribbean Travel Marketplace (CTM) 2019.

Not only are AMResorts’ numbers up by about 10 per cent, but Garcia said they were selling more expensive than last year. To top the resort’s good fortunes, Mexico’s downward trend in tourism is having a positive impact here.

“Mexico is being affected by the travel warnings and security issues, and the people involved in the MICE market business always need to feel secure, and Jamaica is doing a good job with its image,” asserted Garcia, lauding the Jamaica Tourist Board for doing a great job promoting the country and building confidence.

His comments were bolstered by several other hoteliers attending CTM, with many admitting that the month of January was one of the best in the history of tourism.

“There were no available rooms in Montego Bay during the month of January,” Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) area chapter Chair Robin Russell said. While noting that two nights ago, a flight to the USA from Jamaica had to be cancelled because of the Big Chill freezing the Midwest and East Coast, he said, “The passengers, I suspect, were forced to go outside of the tourism capital because there were just no rooms to accommodate them”.

His property, Deja Resort, is also up 10 per cent in comparison to last January.

Two of Russell’s counterparts, Kerry-Ann Quallo-Casserly of Blue Diamond Resorts and Tricia-Ann Bicarie of Sea Gardens Beach Resort, concurred, stating that they, too, were seeing more last-minute bookings and were also getting better rates for their rooms.

“This is the worst winter in years [in terms of weather in the US],” asserted Quallo-Casserly, adding that her Negril properties, Royalton Negril, Hideaway, and Grand Lido, were outpacing results for the corresponding period last year.

The Big Chill has increased the number of phone calls and enquiries to Sea Gardens, remarked Bicarie, who said her call centre team had been getting a lot of solicitations from travel partners and customers.

“For the month of February, we are pretty full but have been able to accommodate some of these last-minute bookings where we have space available, particularly in the month of March,” revealed Bicarie.

Overall, occupancies were up by 8.5 per cent for the month of January, said JHTA President Omar Robinson.


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