Open Jaw

Jamaica: A Rhythm For Every Vacation Style

The island vibe is in the food, the music & the people

As anyone who has ever been to Jamaica knows, the island of All Right is a different kind of sun destination. With a population of just three million, Jamaica has an outsized reputation around the world for its contributions to music, culture, athletics, and, increasingly, cuisine. Those who fall in love with the island’s vibe tend to fall hard, and keep on coming back.

As Philip Rose, Director for Canada of the Jamaica Tourist Board points out, 44% of Jamaica visitors are repeaters, the highest in the Caribbean and an amazing number, especially considering that the island’s tourism industry skews toward the higher end.

“Jamaica is so much more than a beach,” says Rose. “We have more attractions and excursion choices than any of our competitors. We have a product to suit a wide range of tastes – our all-inclusives are frequently voted among the best in the world, and so are our boutique properties. And we’re always striving, always improving. Jamaicans are determined and tenacious, and that’s a big part of our success.”

Canadian visitor numbers have been rising for years and last year was no exception.

Canadians have a special affection for the island. Arrivals from this market topped the previous year by 9%, topping 405,000 Canadians. Rose expects the upward trend to continue.

“We have increased capacity from tour operators and airlines for this summer. These companies don’t increase capacity on a gut feeling. They do it because the data tells them Jamaica is where people want to go,” Rose says.

Part of what keeps visitors coming back and new ones attracted is a constant evolution of product, Rose says.

“We’ve had a number of new resorts open up in the past few years, and they have really raised the bar. Existing resorts have stepped up their game so they’re not left behind. And we are continuously training all of our tourism workers to deliver a level of service that we believe is unmatched.”

Rose says Jamaicans are naturally outgoing and have a keen interest in learning about the rest of the world. That makes for genuine exchanges and connections between locals and tourists, and it’s a big reason why people return year after year.

“The kind of people who return to our island again and again really love interacting with Jamaicans.”

“We’ve always seen tourism as a two-way street. Jamaicans are very outward-viewing. We want to engage and learn about others. We thoroughly enjoy conversation. I have to say, you’d be hard-pressed to find a shy, insecure Jamaican. And the kind of people who return to our island again and again really love the interaction with Jamaicans.”

They also love the fresh, spicy, smoky flavours of Jamaican cuisine. That’s another aspect of the island tourism experience that has evolved considerably in recent years, Rose says.

Ackee pizza at Stush In The Bush

“Jamaican food is so much more than jerk chicken or pork. On a recent visit, I was eating breadfruit gnocchi and ackee quiche. Rastafarians have been promoting a healthy culinary lifestyle for decades, and the rest of the world is catching up. Over the past 5-7 years there has been formal international recognition of the sophistication and great taste of Jamaican cuisine.”

Rose notes that Jamaica’s iconic Half Moon resort, getting ready to celebrate its 65th birthday, is adding a vegan restaurant as part of a massive renovation and enhancement.

“I was just recently in Montego Bay and the beaches were busy, locals and visitors were out and about, and cruise passengers were heading off on excursions. Again, I love facts, and the fact that 44% of our visitors are repeaters tells me that they feel safe, secure and are always discovering a new side of the Jamaican experience that makes them want to return again and again.”

Some last words of advice from Rose focus on the diversity of Jamaica’s tourism experience.

“Jamaica is like an onion. Enjoy all the layers, all the aspects. Don’t be in a rush. Celebrate the journey.”


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