Mon | Dec 5, 2022

African-Americans fuelling Jamaica’s tourism recovery

Published:Friday | September 2, 2022 | 12:11 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaica is pacing ahead of every other English-speaking Caribbean country and African Americans have contributed significantly to the fast recovery trend, says Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

“The Afro-American market has taken off with a bang. We have never seen the level of visitorship that we are now seeing from that community and they spend at an enormously attractive level,” he said, noting that the visitors are mainly from the northeastern seaboard, which includes New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut areas.

According to Bartlett, the growth in this market is not by coincidence.

“It has been coming for a while. Jamaica is seen as the most welcoming and congenial destination for Afro-Americans in the entire region,” he told The Gleaner during the 29th World Travel Awards at Sandals Montego Bay on Wednesday evening.

The country’s rich cultural heritage, music, food, and sports are key pull factors creating a buzz around the island.

The size of the Jamaican diaspora in the United States is also a major plus.

“Jamaica has the largest diaspora in the English-speaking Caribbean. The fact that we lead other Caribbean destinations that have larger populations than ours is a statement of how well our product is,” said the tourism minister.

Jamaica is also the most connected destination in the English-speaking Caribbean, with every major carrier flying into the island daily.

The country’s tourism sector continues to see a strong recovery following the COVID-19 fallout.

“We are at 91 per cent now as at the end of August of 2019 in terms of arrival, but the earnings are 20 per cent above 2019. So we are going to end the 2022-2023 fiscal [year] at about US$4.2 million, which would have exceeded 2019 by US$500 million,” stated Bartlett.

Admitting he did not foresee the recovery happening at such speed, Bartlett revealed said Jamaica has attracted a significant number of people who are seeking safer and more COVID-compliant protocols.

Only the Dominican Republic and Mexico are pacing ahead of Jamaica in the region.

The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) reported earnings of J$7 billion in 2019, the strongest calendar year to date.

“The expectation for this year is between $5 billion and $6 billion,” Bartlett stated.

He predicts that for the fiscal year, the fund will be ahead of the 2019 income.

Monies from the TEF are used for the improvement of the tourism product.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com