In 2020 we watched as Covid-19 brought our travel plans to a screeching halt. Bucket list trip plans were immediately shelved. Travel became limited to grocery store trips and backyard visits. From March 21 to June 15, Jamaica’s borders closed to all international travelers. As a result, a majority of the island’s hotels shuttered, some of which have remained unopened. International travel has since resumed with Covid-19 protocols in place. When compared to 2019, visitor arrivals in 2020 declined by over 60%. The airports may be a bit quieter this year but Jamaica still enjoys its fair share of popularity. If you’re traveling this year, here are some noticeable Jamaica travel trends for 2021:
At the forefront of everyone’s mind is the question, Is it Safe? In 2019BC (Before Covid), it was common to see resorts boasting of their luxury amenities. Ads would promote Butler service, beachside cabanas, and chic rooms with stunning views. Those features have taken a backseat to their health and safety protocols. From sanitizing tunnels to contact-less check-ins, safety has become the newest luxury amenity. Resorts revealed cleaning standards to appeal to the senses of the Covid-conscious traveler. Who knew watching a hotel room get steam cleaned could be so attractive?
All Tourism entities in Jamaica need to receive a Covid-19 Protocol Compliance Certification. This is a stamp approval from the government that shows that the business is safe to welcome guests. Visit Jamaica website maintains a list of the approved accommodations and attractions.
Cleaner rooms should not be a trend but it’s definitely a positive effect of the pandemic. It is one that is likely to continue post-covid.
Dining Al Fresco
On a smaller scale, restaurants are also using their safety protocols to lure diners. They advertise their reduced seating capacity, hand sanitizing, and temperature checks upon entry. Most restaurants have a “no mask no entry” policy. Once seated at a table you can remove your mask to eat. Service team members remain masked at all times to ensure your safety. In the Covid-19 era, restaurants with outdoor dining facilities have a particular advantage. Open-air dining presents an added level of comfort not to mention the romantic appeal.
In Kingston, the recently opened District 5 at the R Hotel has become one of, if not the trendiest place to eat out. The rooftop restaurant serves up delectable cuisine curated by celebrity chef, Brian Lumley. Good food, great music paired with the ambiance of dining under the stars is a winning formula.
Another thriving place is the AC Hotel by Marriott. Their poolside dining and swanky lounge areas are a hit with the local glitterati. Enjoy afternoon Tapas and Cava or their signature Kingston Mule cocktail. AC is serving major South Beach vibes in the heart of Kingston’s business district.
In Negril, Ms. Lily’s at Skylark hotel is the place to be. Enjoy “finger-licking” local cuisine, against the backdrop of Negril’s Seven Mile Beach. Their sister property RockHouse offers a similar menu at their Pushcart restaurant. Dine cliffside and if you feel adventurous take the plunge off their famous bridge. Hotel restaurants seem to be enjoying popularity during Covid. This could be due to the high sanitization standards of the hospitality industry. They also have larger marketing budgets than independent restaurants. There are endless opportunities to enjoy safe outdoor dining experiences around the island.
Rise of Local Tourism
With the decline in overseas travel, tourism entities had to rely on the support of locals. Jamaica’s Tourist Board launched their “Rediscover Jamaica”. The marketing effort encouraged Jamaicans to explore the island. Hotels and attractions offered record discount prices to sweeten the deal. Websites like Gustazos and Brawta Living continue to buzz with travel deals. Hotels also offered local rates to attract more direct bookings. The specials enabled more Jamaicans to embrace their inner “Dryland Tourist“. Some resorts enjoyed summer occupancy rates as high as 90% on the weekends. Local travel accounted for more than 60% at some properties. The island’s hospitality sector had optimistic projections for the 2021 winter travel season. In true pandemic fashion, those projections were soon deflated. The ban on UK flights entering Jamaica resulted in immediate cancellations. As of January 26, there will be mandatory testing required to enter the United States. Those are only two of many setbacks for tourism entities. It is clear that the industry will need to rely on local support for a while longer. Local tourism isn’t enough to sustain the industry long term but it definitely helps. Local tourism is another trend that I hope will continue to rise.
From Sleepy to Sleek South Coast
The south coast of Jamaica remains undiscovered for travelers. St. Elizabeth is most popular for its agricultural produce. More than 20% of the fresh produce consumed in Jamaica is grown in the parish. This is why it’s called the “Bread Basket” of Jamaica. There is so much more to the parish than that. If you’re seeking an off the beaten path experience, then the south coast is the perfect place.
Discover hidden rivers, mountainous landscapes, and black sand beaches. The Treasure Beach area is a model for community-based and eco-tourism. Farming and fishing are the main sources of income for residents and tourism to a lesser extent. Jakes Hotel is a popular destination for yoga ad spa retreats. The seaside villas and bungalows provide the perfect environment for a zen-like escape.
Treasure Beach is growing in popularity with locals, especially during the pandemic. The introduction of some chic and “insta-worthy” villas is attracting younger travelers. Social media marketing and local influencers are helping to elevate the destination profile. You can rent private oceanfront villas on Airbnb for your family or close friends. Affordable rates, empty beaches, and delicious food add to the appeal. Being able to avoid crowds whilst safely enjoying the outdoors is a definite plus. Popular day trip options are Floyds Pelican Bar, Appleton Estate, and YS Falls.
As Covid-19 continues, our lives will adjust to fit the changing circumstances. We each have to take precautions to ensure our safety and that of our families. You may decide to stay at home and wait out the pandemic. If however, you choose to travel, please do so responsibly. Follow the guidelines, wear a mask, check for updates, and maintain physical distance.
Have you noticed any trends in your corner of the world? I would love to hear them. You can comment here or follow me on Instagram and Facebook @thedrylandtourist.