Montego Bay set to earn billions from Reggae Sumfest
Festival launched in the second city
Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett is forecasting that the city of Montego Bay will earn between $5 billion and $6 billion from the staging of Reggae Sumfest 2022.
The festival, which took a two-year hiatus from the tourism capital owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, returns on July 18, closing its curtains on July 23 at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex.
Last Thursday, the world was given a sneak preview into the 28th staging of the event during its local launch at the Iberostar Suites in Rose Hall. Hours later, the launch was being described as “a mini Reggae Sumfest, indicative of what is to be expected in July”.
Bartlett, who spoke at the launch party, described the Joe Bagdonovich Downsound Entertainment-produced event as a signature statement of the recovery of tourism in general but more importantly, the recovery of the entertainment offerings of the destination.
Dubbed the greatest reggae show on Earth, the tourism minister said no other destination in the world can possibly offer such an experience but Jamaica. “It is inviting people back to Jamaica, the way we were and that’s exciting.”
The economic impact of the festival, he said, measuring how it has been in the past and the kind of spend that has been associated with it, and the number of patrons that are expected to come to Jamaica in 2022, will result in the city earning “somewhere in the region of five to six billion Jamaican dollars”.
This impact, Bartlett added, covers a wide range of economic interests in the Montego Bay area: the hotels, the taxi drivers, the vendors, restaurants, craft merchants, and all other interests that benefit throughout the event. Employment of scores of young people in the city are among the positive impact that the festival has had.
His comments were bolstered by Bogdanovich, who told The Gleaner that the 2019 statistics saw the festival bringing US$10 million into the city of Montego Bay.
“From the top to the bottom, everybody was benefiting. The employment was high, the hotels were sold out from Ocho Rios all the way to Negril, and we couldn’t even get Airbnb,” Bogdanovich said.
He said it was the kind of money that came into the country in seven days and the forecast for 2022 looks like it will be on par with 2019.
“It 2019 it was Buju Banton getting out of prison and all that kind of thing, and it was a big, big deal. And this year, I think it’s the getting through the COVID-19 mystery and now it’s not a foreign deal. It’s understandable that now it’s reduced in significance from variation to variation.”
He is hoping the current wave of the virus will peak in another couple of weeks and downtrend shortly after, which is what has been happening.
“So, I’m feeling very optimistic that the enthusiasm, to get out your house, out of confinement and be able to enjoy one another and the camaraderie, and we saw it at the launch. We really people were happy to be out and Reggae Sumfest coming back.”
Philipp Hofer, managing director, Iberostar Jamaica, shared that the relationship between his company and Reggae Sumfest has been successful “due to the collaborative support, trust, loyalty and optimism that we share”.
He added, “Over the past 10 years our partnership has been quite rewarding as we have had the opportunity to host some of the most epic performers and influential persons in the industry and we have been duly recognised for this. We have worked quite well together and as we gear up for this year’s event we are excited to continue the journey. Reggae Sumfest undoubtedly plays an immense role in tourism as there is an influx of visitors who crave to experience the Jamaican culture. The exposure the destination receives from the overall festival experience is a driving force in culture-based tourism. For the Sumfest period, we have very limited availability, we knew this would have been the case as within minutes of the announcement we had patrons reaching out to secure their accommodation. We are confident that this year will be immensely successful and we anticipate the Return of Sumfest.”
While the Downsound team puts plans into gear, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has signalled plans to reinstate the mask-wearing mandate throughout the island. On Friday during a handover ceremony in Lathium, St James, Holness noted that with a fifth wave of the virus now in the island, this would be a requirement shortly.
His comments came hours after Minister of Entertainment and Culture Olivia Grange warned entertainers, promoters and Jamaicans in general that “COVID still a keep”.
“I want you all to realise that we are all at risk, so we should be monitoring the news of the fifth wave, because the situation has implications, that could affect our industry and our plans,” Grange told the gathering at the launch.
She said, however, that she is confident in the protocols that were developed over the last two years to deal with the pandemic. Those protocols, she said, helped the industry to ride out the pandemic and keep the wider entertainment sector open.
She called on event organisers to review their operations to ensure that they are sticking to the protocols and make adjustments where there are gaps.
“News of the fifth wave should encourage all of us as citizens to be even more vigilant about observing the protocols,” she stated.
Grange said she looks forward to the return of Reggae Sumfest, and anticipates the great performances and great moments that the festival will offer.
“Reggae Sumfest will allow us to see our superstars live while providing that platform for sound systems, emerging bands and rising artistes.”