Jamaica now ranks as the fastest growing cruise destination in the Caribbean based on the pull of the Falmouth Pier, launched a year ago.
Officials estimate visitor-spend to surpass US$100 million (J$8.7 billion) or 25 percent more than earlier years’ levels.
Jamaica received its highest number of cruise visitors in four years at some 1.14 million passengers for 2011, a quarter more than 2010, according to latest Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) data.
Nearly half of those visitors docked at the Falmouth Pier with one third at Ocho Rios and the balance at Montego Bay and Port Antonio.
The rise in arrivals allowed the island to beat 24 Caribbean countries in terms of growth arrivals at a time when nearly half recorded steep declines.
William Tatham, vice president Cruise Shipping & Marine Operations, Port Authority of Jamaica told the Gleaner he expected the island to top the region based in the newness of the pier, which attracts cruise liners.
“We knew that building the Falmouth Pier would increase by 50 percent berthing capacity, which would have allowed us to accommodate excess vessels during the busy winter period,” said Tatham.
“Before Falmouth, we were turning away business on peak days at Ocho Rios and Montego Bay,” he said.
Tatham expects cruise arrivals to virtually double over the next four years before peaking, based on berthing space and commitments from Royal Caribbean but also Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line.
The average spend was US$87.35 per cruise passenger in 2010, according to that year’s Annual Travel Statistics published by the Jamaica Tourist Board.
The growth in Jamaica’s cruise arrivals coincided with the launch of the Falmouth Pier.
It enables the world’s largest cruise liners to dock in the island for the first time while offering additional berthing space for vessels unable to dock at Montego Bay or Ocho Rios during peak periods.
The pier was developed by PAJ in partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Limited, whose investments were estimated at US$167 million, respectively.