Culture and connectivity were on the agenda at the 26th annual JAPEX (Jamaican Product Exchange) held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre this past April. The event brought together international wholesalers, tour operators and suppliers to build partnerships and promote Jamaican tourism. Here’s a glimpse of some of the biggest takeaways.
Five Pillars of Growth…
In his opening address, Minister of Tourism Hon. Edmund Bartlett expressed five pillars of tourism growth that would help stimulate the island’s economy, create new jobs, and improve standards of living for Jamaicans. The pillars he outlined were: tapping into new markets, developing new products, promoting investment, building new partnerships and developing human capital. Jamaica was recently ranked as top island destination in the Caribbean and third best island destination globally on the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. Bartlett’s goal is to grow Jamaica’s tourism offering and take the number one spot as the world’s best island.
And Five Island Passions
Bartlett also highlighted five “passion points” that could lure more visitors to Jamaica: gastronomy, shopping, health & wellness, sports and music. From culinary specialties such as jerk chicken and Blue Mountain coffee, to the legacy of its Olympic-medalling athletes, to the music and culture of reggae and dancehall, the stated aim is to create double-digit growth by better showcasing what makes the island such a unique destination for tourism.
Cool Runnings on Highway 2000
A game changer for Jamaica tourism is the recently completed North-South link extension to Highway 2000, which opened in March 2016. The highway reduces travel time from Ocho Rios to Kingston by bypassing the steep and winding Bog Walk Gorge and Mount Rosser, allowing easier access to the island’s north coast. The new ease of connectivity between the island’s beach resorts and its capital city allows Kingston to be developed as a tourist destination in its own right for travelers seeking a cultural experience of the real Jamaica. In 2015, Kingston was designated a Creative City of Music by the UNESCO World Heritage Foundation. Groups will now be able to combine a beach resort vacation with a stay in Kingston to explore its the music, culture, history and cuisine.
Set to open in the heart of Kingston in 2017 is a new integrated hotel and recreational complex offering three distinct hotel properties on Knutsford Boulevard. The complex will combine the facilities of the current Jamaica Pegasus and Courtleigh Hotel, both undergoing renovations, with a new property being built on the site of the former Wyndham Kingston Hotel. The renewed complex aims to offer a world-class business and conference destination, and will provide shared convention space with seamless pricing and logistics. Other facilities at the complex will include expanded shopping, restaurants, gym facilities, upscale spa and covered walkways. The newest property located at 77 Knutsford Boulevard will include a 12,000 sf ballroom with additional meeting rooms.
Island hopping trend
Jamaica is also currently pursuing a multi-destination marketing arrangement with Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and Bartlett spoke enthusiastically about promoting the islands as three unique travel experiences in one. The close proximity of the three countries allows for the possibility of island-hopping itineraries that showcase the best of what they all have to offer.