Marley film, new hotels expected to boost Jamaica tourism

Jamaican tourism officials visiting here in February to celebrate Reggae Month and the release of a major motion picture about the island nation’s most famous son, Bob Marley, were eager to talk about resort and infrastructure development in the country.

They were just as eager to see consumer media outlets move on from coverage about the U.S. State Department’s reiteration of its Level 3 travel advisory.

The film, “Bob Marley: One Love,” which opened in the U.S. on Valentine’s Day, was filmed in Jamaica and is expected to provide a boost for both tourism and the island’s film industry.

But even before the movie’s release, Jamaica tourism had been surging. Donovan White, the Jamaica Tourist Board’s director of tourism, said during a media event here that while 2023 numbers were still being finalized, it appeared they would surpass 2019’s figures by about 18%, with a projected 4.1 million visitors and $4.3 billion in revenue last year. And that did not include cruise passengers.

“The investment appetite for Jamaica is extremely positive,” White said, adding that there are strong commitments from investing partners to put money into housing solutions for resort employees.

Major enhancements that debuted last year at Sangster Airport in Montego Bay will help accommodate that growth, White said, adding that the changes were made after analyzing some of the visitor challenges in terms of arrival and departure logistics.

The changes include an expanded immigration hall and departure lounge and runway extensions. White said that previously, when four to six flights were coming in “on top of each other,” the airport could get pretty congested.
“We were hell-bent on finding a solution that would alleviate some of that pressure,” he said. “And that’s what we’ve done.”

White said there are more opportunities to smooth the airport process, especially as visitor numbers grow. “As you add more rooms and you add more people and more flights, you have to continue to review your airport processes,” he said.

White also said that to accommodate the additional visitors, the island is focused on staff training.

“We have to continue to train and develop our workforce to meet that demand,” he said, adding that it is important that the locals and the island benefit from tourism investments.

White said there wasn’t a large immediate reaction from travelers following the State Department’s advisory, despite the headlines it triggered. But, he added, “We are not naive in this business. We understand that sometimes decisions are not taken immediately and people book their travel well into the future.”

With 70% of tourism bookings for the island coming from travel agencies, White said the tourist board looked to them as the first line of defense against misinformation.

“What we have relied on always and continue to do so is the relationship we have with the agent community,” he said. “The relationship with the agent community allows us to connect with those travelers and those travel groups much faster, reassure them and provide them with the kind of responses that give them the sense of security and safety that they’re looking for. And so we’ve been able to use that over the years, and we continue to do that today.”

Source: Travel Weekly