Staging of Reggae Sumfest expected to boost tourism arrivals, revenue in western Jamaica
A section of the crowd at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre in Montego Bay during the 2019 staging of Reggae Sumfest. (Photo: Philp Lemonte)

MONTEGO BAY, St James - Expected tourism arrivals stemming from this year’s staging of Reggae Sumfest are expected to significantly boost occupancy levels across western Jamaica.

Already a number of properties are reporting strong bookings for the one-week festival, which returns to the resort city from July 18-23, following a two-year hiatus due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader, revealed that the hotels are reporting a windfall in reservations directly linked to Sumfest.

“I hear some people talking that we may need more rooms on the Montego Bay side, especially because the bookings seem to be coming in very strong and the expectations seem to be very high in terms of attendance and the demand for rooms, especially in the Montego Bay area. So from traditional hotel rooms to every single thing, I believe will be taken,” the JHTA president told the Jamaica Observer West.

READER… we may need more rooms on the Montego Bay side.

“Hotels in Trelawny, and I am sure as far as Negril, may benefit as well. So I think it is going to be a high-demand period and we have to be prepared for it,” he added.

Reader also noted that it is likely that people will come up with creative ways of securing accommodation.

“What you will probably have is more family-styled bookings or shared accommodations, that kind of thing. Whereas people used to book single rooms they probably book double rooms, more family rooms just so that the existing properties can actually take more people,” he argued.

The Air Bed and Breakfast (Airbnb) sector is also already seeing signs of increased bookings coming to its members as a result of the Downsound Entertainment-staged festival. Airbnb is a service in which property owners rent out their spaces to travellers looking for a place to stay.

“For summer, we are seeing major growth and high occupancy levels. For Reggae Sumfest, many Airbnbs in Montego Bay and surrounding areas are already booked and hosts are maintaining destination assurance as well,” Airbnb President Sheree-Ann Anderson told the Observer West.

ANDERSON…for Reggae Sumfest, many Airbnbs in Montego Bay and surrounding areas are already booked.

“Airbnb in Jamaica is growing and we currently have over 5,000 Airbnb hosts in Jamaica. Now that the sector has reopened for business, hosts are still remaining vigilant and continuing with Airbnb’s enhanced cleaning protocol.”

Chairman of the Jamaica Villas and Apartments, Vana Taylor, noted that currently the membership has been enjoying more bookings this year than the same period last year and expects even stronger performance from business stemming from Sumfest.

“We are seeing increased business generally. It varies with properties but people are getting much better business than last year for sure. I can’t attribute it wholly to Sumfest but I see people are travelling,” Taylor said.

TAYLOR… expects even stronger performance from business stemming from Sumfest.

“Last year people were not travelling. Now the world is opening up again and people are travelling. And naturally, Sumfest is an event that attracts people for sure.

“And so we will see additional business from the event. I am sure we will see bookings from that. People will be coming for Sumfest, I am sure that will assist.”

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Oral Heaven, said there is a buzz among the business community in the second city over Sumfest.

“Based on discussions with the business community, they are feeling the buzz, they are looking forward to the activity; the entire week of Sumfest. So they are feeling it,” Heaven said.

HEAVEN… there is a buzz for Sumfest.

“I went over there (Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre) myself and walked the grounds and the activities are there with the local carpenters, they have been putting up the sky boxes, local people working.

“I see our natives, it is our Montegonians benefiting and I hear the talks from taxi drivers, the hotels, oh my God, the hotels occupancy levels are way up there. From the business perspective, there is a buzz for Sumfest and we are looking forward to that week of activities,” the MBCCI president added.

He disclosed plans to partner with Downsound Entertainment boss, Joe Bagdonovich, to mount billboards in Montego Bay to advertise the music festival.

“As a matter of fact, we have plans to put three billboards that says, ‘Welcome to Sumfest City’. We already discussed that with Joe Bagdonovich, endorsed by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” Heaven said.

In preparation for the musical event, Heaven said assimilations have been done with members of the fire department as well as with security companies like Lost Resort and Hawkeye.

This year’s festival week kicks off with the Sumfest Street Dance on Monday, July 18, followed by Sumfest All White on July 19, Sumfest Blitz on July 20, and the Sumfest Global Sound Clash on July 21. The Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre is set to come alive with the live stage performance of nights one and two of the festival on July 22 and 23, respectively.

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter

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