On August 6, Jamaica celebrated its 60th Independence Day with a series of grand gala events and being the largest segment of the Jamaican economy, tourism played a major role in the celebrations. Once a playground for the rich and famous, Jamaica has grown to become a premier destination for tourists over the last 60 years, offering a variety of options for stay when one chooses the island for a vacation or to celebrate important milestones in their lives. Now, Jamaica is home to more than 35,000 hotels, villas and condominiums, which accommodate a large flow of visitors from various parts of the world.
“The country’s tourism industry began as a very informal activity with absentee proprietors and/or wealthy Jamaicans establishing cottages, second homes, holiday homes that provided a place for friends and family to have entertainment and or to enjoy their vacations. We were able to move from a country where less than 100,000 people were visiting to one where 4.3 million people visited,” says Jamaican Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.
Bartlett adds that the country moved from earning a little over USD 100,000 per year in foreign exchange to now earning USD 3.7 billion. Jamaica’s tourism industry has also contributed to advances in other areas in the economy. The industry became a big employer, employing some 170,000 people directly and approximately 350,000 indirectly. Other sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and entertainment have also been boosted by tourism.
The overall service sector saw more restaurants being established to fill the need for a culinary experience outside of the hotels. Jamaica has moved from having small air strips to having three international airports – Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and the Ian Fleming International Airport in Boscobel, St. Mary, close to the Ocho Rios resort area. The Ian Fleming airport recently welcomed its first scheduled commercial flight from Providenciales, Turks and Caicos (PLS), via Inter Caribbean Airways.
Come November, American Airlines, under its American Eagle regional brand, will operate non-stop flights from Miami in the United States to the airport. Additionally, the destination is easily accessible by cruise passengers through ports in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Falmouth, Port Antonio, and Kingston. These five cruise ports are equipped to handle colossal passenger ships and boutique yachts.