Jamaica’s tourism sector is on track for record arrivals this summer, surpassing 2019 levels, when the country had the highest number of visitors ever seen for the summer months.

Jamaica welcomed approximately 250,584 visitors in July 2019. “Summer 2022 will be the strongest summer that Jamaica’s tourism has ever seen”, said Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett.

“All the bookings and the indications are that we will exceed 2019 levels this summer. We are conscious of the importance as the economy, not just of Jamaica. Still, the world faces challenges, and tourism has that special capacity to drive economic activities in so many key areas,” he noted.

“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 the recession that may envelop the world and Jamaica in its wake,” he outlined.

Mr. Bartlett was speaking at the Sangster International Airport (SIA) in Montego Bay on Saturday (June 4) shortly after welcoming American Airlines’ (AA) inaugural direct flight from Austin, Texas.

The Embraer 175 aircraft with a capacity of 76 carried 66 passengers to the island. The Minister said that the flight signalled 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.”

Mr. Bartlett informed that 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.

STRONG REBOUND

Chief Executive Officer of MBJ Airports, operators of the SIA, Shane Munroe, outlined 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,” he said.

“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,” Mr. Munroe assured.

In his remarks, Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Richard Vernon, said the inaugural AA 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.

Disembarking passengers were greeted by a live performance from a local Mento band and Jamaican memorabilia was presented to the crew by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).