Tourist demand for villas surges

Observer writer

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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Jamaica is experiencing a surge in the demand for villa rentals for 2019, according to luxury villa rental company Exceptional Villas.

The company, which also owns Villas Barbados and Dream Ireland, states that the “unprecedented increase in advance bookings for 2019” follows on the heels of a 35 per cent increase in online villa bookings when compared to the same period in 2017, with the strongest growth seen in the Montego Bay region.

“One of the reasons for the increase in demand is the excellent airlift to the region. There are direct flights from more cities in the US and Canada to Montego Bay than to any other Caribbean island,” Exceptional Villas explained, adding that Negril, Ocho Rios and Discovery Bay were beneficiaries of the increase in villa rentals.

Among the carriers from North America which have increased airlift to the island for the winter season are: Spirit, Southwest, Delta, American, United, Jet Blue, and WestJet.

Based on figures retrieved from the Jamaica Tourist Board's website, 620,245 stopover visitors were recorded to have passed through Jamaica's October to December ports – an increase of four per cent over the same period in 2017.

The online villa rental company, which has operated in the travel industry for the last 25 years, also attributes the increase in bookings to the reduction in crime which, it suggests, has also led to improvement in the satisfaction rate among visitors to the island.

“The other aspect is Montego Bay has never been safer. Local Jamaicans and the expat community are very happy with the present state of affairs. Montego Bay and its environs are quiet and more peaceful than in the last 15 years. There are reports of people walking to work as they have never done. Tourists are enjoying the benefits of this,” the release states.

Within the last year and a half the Government of Jamaica has implemented initiatives to tackle crime in Montego Bay. In September 2017, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a zone of special operation over the community of Mount Salem, located on the outskirts of the city, which is still in force today.

Further, with crime in the city still out of control, the Government declared a state of public emergency (SOE) over the entire parish of St James on January 18 last year. It has been estimated that murders in the western parish reduced by 20 per cent during the SOE, which expired on January 31 after the Opposition withdrew its support to continue the initiative.

Most importantly, Exceptional Villas noted that, when compared with villas in the Caribbean, booking villas in Jamaica has its competitive advantage.

“…Jamaica offers better value when you compare it with other Caribbean islands. All the luxury villas come with staff such as housekeepers, chefs and butlers which ensure that all guests need to do is relax,” the release from the booking website states.

Notwithstanding, Caribbean territories Turks and Caicos, St Barts and the Cayman Islands have also seen growth in villa bookings of between 30 and 40 per cent.

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