Shoring up cruise shipping as Jamaica woos the high seas

FIVE of the travel advisors most responsible for the cruise portion of the 1.58 million visitors to Jamaica and earnings of US$1.69 billion in the first five months of 2023 were wined, dined, and entertained at the inaugural Regal Rewards Awards at the Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, St Ann, on Saturday night.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and his team from the Jamaica Vacations (Jamvac), which organised the event, spent the evening ensuring that the guests of honour felt appreciated for their yeoman efforts to sell Jamaica to cruise passengers and for the recovery of the sector after the COVID-19 devastation.

Telling the gathering that Jamaica is renowned for providing premium experiences for guests journeying on the high seas in search of fun, world-class hospitality, and a vibe like no other, Bartlett said the island received 643,000 cruisers between January and May 2023.

“So I’m excited tonight to greet you. Thank you. And I want you to know that we are opening our arms to you. We are opening all of Jamaica to you. We want you to feel the welcome. We want you to feel the appreciation that we have for you,” said Bartlett.

The tourism minister said Jamaica was now on track to reach 1.3 million cruise visitors by the end of 2023, which is 300,000 shy of its best year. By 2024 the figures will go back to 1.6 million and then to two million.

“What that will mean, of course, is that we’ll be earning somewhere in the region of US$350 million to $400 million from cruise — which is a far cry from 1968 when 400,000 cruisers brought us US$87 million.”

The Regal Rewards Awards is a Caribbean first for Jamaica Cruising, the flagship brand of Jamaica Vacations Limited to celebrate the top five highest-performing travel advisors for service excellence, dedication, and sales innovation within the cruise industry.

Two travel advisors tied for top performer, forcing the organisers to honour six instead of five this year, explained Joy Roberts, executive director of Jamvac. The winners are in order of placing: Troy Colbert of Western North Carolina, Darcy Solis of Florida, Marjorie Correa of Philadelphia, Donna May of Texas; Annick Louisseize from Ottawa, Canada, and Jovoanda Reed from Georgia.

Since the programme was officially launched last, cruise lines have already reported increased demand for their itineraries to destination Jamaica, Roberts said.

“Advisors wishing to get in on this opportunity can sign up via jamaicacruising.comand start earning points for every cruise booked to Jamaica. At the end of the year the points are tabulated and the top five agents are rewarded with prizes,” she added.

Hard Drive, the local band which backed Kelesha McDowell, dancers and synchronised swimmers, entertained the guests. MC was Fabian Brown.