Jamaica is poised for a bumper winter tourism season despite parts of the island still being in a state of emergency through its soaring crime.
The winter season, which begins on December 15 officially, should be a bumper period, according to Robin Russell, President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association. Russell said that forward bookings are showing that Destination Jamaica is still a top choice for vacationers. Jamaica is enjoying record visitor numbers as it recovers in the post-Covid era.
Destination Jamaica is moving closer to repeating its 2019 tourism season high of 4.3 million visitors. This comprised 2.7 million stopover arrivals and 1.6 million cruise passengers, whose combined spending contributed to revenues of US$3.64 billion, a figure already reached by the end of September.
“We are about where we were in 2019 and our forward bookings are looking very good, so I can see us having a very good winter tourist season,” said Russell. “We know that some properties in Negril were struggling, but the Jamaica Tourist Board did some work and I just got a report that Negril properties are running at 70 per cent occupancy. They started to pick up and from all indications they are also going to have a pretty good winter tourist season.”
Klent Elson, manager of the Hermosa Cove villas in Ocho Rios, said: “We are about 90 per cent ready. The bookings for the upcoming winter season are coming in, so we are optimistic and are expecting a great season.”
All this despite rising crime in Jamaica causing Prime Minister Andrew Holness to declare a state of emergency in several areas, including the popular tourist destination of Montego Bay.
There has been a state of public emergency in parts of Kingston and in some central and western parishes in an attempt to control rising crime linked to gang violence for two weeks.
States of emergency give authorities increased powers, including the ability to search buildings and carry out arrests without warrants.
Montego Bay is one of the more popular resort areas for American tourists in the Caribbean and is home to several prominent hotels including Sandals’ all-inclusive flagship location, Sandals Montego Bay.
Last month, the US State Department issued a travel warning suggesting that Americans reconsider travelling to Jamaica due to rising crime, explaining that “the homicide rate reported by the Government of Jamaica has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere.”