Air travel developments, growing UK visitor numbers and sustainable tourism progress are all giving Jamaica cause to celebrate, says Andrew Doherty.
Screams emit from the darkened performance area beneath indigo at The 02’s VIP lounge. The crackle of an amplifier sparking into life draws yet another excited gasp from the unseen crowd below. An explosion of bass-heavy music fills the crowded room and I hotfoot it to catch reggae artist, Nesbeth, launching into his set.
The vibe at Jamaica House, a nine-night celebration of the nation’s culture and music, is akin to that of a Jamaican beach bar with rum, great food and friendly company – the only thing missing is the sand. Tonight’s headline act is Ziggy Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, and the excitement is palpable.
In between songs I catch up with Elizabeth Fox, regional director UK at the Jamaica Tourist Board, who informs me of the island’s recent successes.
“We have seen a 6.7% increase in UK visitors from January to June on the same period last year.
“With regards to hotel openings, we are set to welcome the Excellence Oyster Bay in June 2018. Furthermore, Sangster International airport will receive a $100 million upgrade for additional capacity, although air capacity will remain unchanged in 2018.”
Fox adds that the tourism board will maintain a strong focus on working with the UK travel trade.
“We will host up to 15 dedicated Jamaica training evenings and eight fam trips while continuing to encourage sellers to use our online trade portal.”
Also in attendance is Jamaica’s minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, who comments on the island’s upcoming developments. He explains that the UNWTO
Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, will host 800 delegates from more than 150 countries with aims to develop a list of goals for other countries to follow called the Montego Bay Declaration. He also shares news on Jamaica’s decision to sign a memorandum of understanding with Mexico in a bid to consolidate multi-centre tourism in the region.
“With bigger aircraft and larger capacity, it’s attractive to airlines to be able to make multiple stops. For tourists with three or four weeks’ vacation time it is particularly appealing. Airlines already do it in the eastern Caribbean but now we want to offer it in the western Caribbean,” he says.
With such positive developments in the pipeline it certainly looks like Jamaica, like this evening’s spectacle, is very much one to watch.