KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica is predicting that this year’s summer arrivals of visitors will surpass previous years as tourism officials say the island is on track for record arrivals surpassing 2019 levels, when the country welcomed approximately 250,584 visitors in that year.
“Summer 2022 will be the strongest summer that Jamaica’s tourism has ever seen”, said Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett.
“All the bookings and the indications are that we are going to exceed 2019 levels in this summer. We are conscious of the importance of this as the economy, not just of Jamaica but the world faces challenges and tourism has that special capacity to drive economic activities in so many key areas,” he said.
Bartlett said a strong summer means that “agriculture will be stronger, it means that manufacturing will be stronger, it means transportation will be stronger, it means small and medium enterprises that feed so much into the experience of tourism will be economically stronger.
“It also means that we will have a stronger cushion to deal with the impact of inflation and indeed, the difficulties of recession that may envelope the world and Jamaica in its wake,” he added.
Bartlett, speaking at a function to welcome American Airlines inaugural direct flight from Austin Texas, at the Sangster International Airport (SIA) in Montego Bay over the weekend, said the flight signaled a “strengthening of the southeastern seaboard of the United States as a key source for the tourism in our country.
“We are very strong in the northeast, we call that the breadbasket, but the southeast is now strong because it does have the capacity to drive the numbers to us,” he said.
The Embraer 175 aircraft with a capacity of 76, carried 66 passengers to the island and Bartlett said the direct flight from Austin is scheduled to arrive in Montego Bay once weekly on Saturdays, with the number of flights expected to increase in the months and years ahead.
Chief executive officer of MBJ Airports, operators of the SIA, Shane Munroe, said that the facility has been enjoying a strong rebound from the downturn experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All the airlines have indicated to us that the trend will continue through the summer. We are preparing for that. Our partners, our stakeholders are putting in the measures to ensure that we are [prepared] for the traffic.
“Also, we have some long-term plans for the expansion of the airport to match the growth in passenger traffic. So, we are certainly positioning Sangster International Airport as the gateway for tourism for this side of the country and we certainly intend to ensure that it is ready to receive the traffic,” Munroe said.
Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay, Richard Vernon, said the inaugural flight from Austin into the second city is a positive for tourism and commerce.
“Once we continue to have these direct flights coming into Jamaica and of course, Montego Bay, then this airport, this city, can rapidly become a hub for the Caribbean and for the world, and I believe we are going in the right direction,” he noted.