Jamaica has already reached one million stopover visitors in 2022, official figures show, a remarkable record considering how dire the tourism industry has been over the last two years.
That number instantly puts the island among the most-visited destinations in the Caribbean so far this year.
Traveller Brian Simmons was the one millionth visitor, arriving at Montego Bay’s Sangster Airport on JetBlue flight 1479 from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
It’s part of a continued tourism rebound for the island, which first reopened for tourism in summer 2020. “This moment is a testament to the confidence that the market shows in Jamaica as well as the strength, resilience and enduring appeal of Jamaica’s tourism product as we build back stronger,” said Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.
The milestone also comes as Jamaica celebrates the 60th anniversary of its Independence.
The figures show Jamaica’s strong recovery from earlier pandemic travel restrictions.
Bartlett believes Jamaica is positioned for a strong 2022-23 season. On June 4, the country welcomed new service into Sangster International from Austin, Texas, with Saturday flights.
Bartlett said the new service marks “the strengthening of relations with the south-eastern region of US market,” part of “building capacity to drive the arrival numbers and develop a more robust route in the future.”
He added: “The projection for summer 2022 is that arrival numbers will be higher than the corresponding period in 2019. Based on bookings we are well ahead of 2019.”
Bartlett emphasised that Jamaica’s early work to establish a Global Resilience Centre based in Montego Bay was crucial to the country’s ability to tackle the pandemic.
Jamaica also worked to maintain its tourism workforce’s safety, financial viability and training for to work under new health protocols.
“We were able to fund personal protective equipment for (hospitality and tourism) staff, including many still on furlough. We trained 20,000 workers who were home online. Then we established the first Resilient Corridor, our own bubble that was able to provide a level of safety and security to visitors. All of that allowed us to have a tourism recovery that was faster than the rest of the world.”
Meanwhile, tour operator TUI has significantly ramped up its flight service to Jamaica this summer. The company has increased its flight program there by 10,000 seats this summer, according to Torrance Lewis, of the Jamaica Tourist Board.
TUI has been the leading tour operator for Jamaica for “many years,” said Donovan White, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism.
“We are proud of our strong partnership with the TUI group and we very much look forward to building and strengthening our relationship,” he said, speaking following a familiarisation trip to the island by 20 United Kingdom-based travel agents.
It’s another sign of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean’s growing position as a year-round destination, a trend that took hold in the heart of the pandemic.