It’s official – an estimated 231,104 British tourists visited the island’s beach-bound shores in 2022, according to new figures from the Jamaica Tourist Board;
So what is it that pulls us back? For starters, easy access with Virgin Atlantic, which offers three weekly flights from Heathrow to Montego Bay; British Airways operates direct services from Gatwick to Kingston on the same frequency, and tour operator Tui offers flights from several airports in the UK.
It’s also comfortingly familiar. Ties between our islands date back to 1655, when forces sent by Oliver Cromwell took Jamaica from Spanish control. Today, the island is divided into three districts – Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey – and its lush landscape is dotted with familiar place names such as Falmouth, Cambridge and Wakefield. Last August, the country celebrated its 60th anniversary of independence from British rule, but remains – for now – part of the Commonwealth of Nations and, as the then Prince of Wales reflected, “the contribution of Jamaicans to the life of this country has been immeasurable”.
That’s not all – the climate is also suitable for us from the ground up. With the thermometer hovering at 24-27C year-round, Jamaica promises guaranteed warmth for winter sun seekers who want to relax on seven miles of white sands in the state of Negril on the west coast. Meanwhile, the east offers cool breezes, forest walks and panoramic views in the world heritage-listed Blue Mountains, where the eponymous soft coffee is produced.
Jamaica does all-inclusive resorts very well too, thanks to the genius of Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who opened the first Sandals Resort in Montego Bay in 1981. May. But you still have to go beyond the bougainvillea-covered walls. Selling holidays to 29 all-inclusive resorts around the island, Tui offers excursions starting at just £8. Unfortunately, hostile attitudes and archaic laws do not encourage LGBT+ travelers; The island has one of the worst ratings in the Caribbean on the Gay Travel Index.
Not to mention the charm of Jamaica, of course, about Bob Marley, who had a special bond with England after his time in England in the 1970s. Enthusiasm for his songs draws countless devotees to the island, with many going to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, including the house he moved to in 1976 and the studio where he recorded the Buffalo Soldier.
Don’t let the prospect of visiting the capital take a guided tour put you off – although the port has inaccessible areas and the island has a high crime rate, there are good things to see here, including the Coronation Market and Devon. The House is a mansion built in 1881 by George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first black millionaire.
From the 1940s, celebrities such as Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn and Noël Coward brought glamor to the north coast. The Jamaica Inn, where Marilyn Monroe honeymooned and Winston Churchill painted, is the best place to get into that early high society mood; celebrates its 65th anniversary this year.
And it would be negligent to end any discussion of British love for Jamaica without mentioning a particular spy. Ian Fleming wrote all of his James Bond novels in his home Goldeneye in Oracabessa, and the island locations have received invaluable publicity in several 007 movies, including the latest No Time to Die. If it’s good enough for Daniel Craig…
Seven nights at the Royalton Negril in Negril from £1,722 per person all-inclusive with TUI Airways flights and transfers from Birmingham from 25 March. For more information visit jamaica.com