Last Friday alone, one day before the Long Walk to Freedom tour, Kingston airport welcomed 2,434 visitors who flew into the island to witness Buju Banton’s performance, according to the tourism ministry. The ministry believes that if Vybz Kartel is freed in the coming days or week, Jamaica could experience another such boost in April.
At the Montego Bay airport 7,389 visitors arrived to enjoy the show.
“These numbers for the airport in Kingston and Montego Bay represent a 143 and 58 percent increase, respectively, over the same day last year,” the tourism ministry said.
The month of March is not usually a high tourism month in Jamaica but all the excitement around Buju Banton’s first live performance since being released from incarceration has buck that trend.
“The arrivals over the weekend have been very strong, and as an industry we are ecstatic,” said Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett. “Our focus on our core tourist arrivals remains on strong footing from our key source markets.”
Buju Banton’s concert at the National Stadium Saturday night drew more than 30,000 people, most of whom flew in from North America, Europe, and as far away as Australia.
Yesterday, additional data provided by Delano Seiveright, communications strategist and advisor in the Ministry of Tourism, show that total visitor arrivals for the period March 1-17 amounted to 148,052, a 24.8 per cent increase over the 118,597 recorded for the same period last year.
“This is 29,455 more arrivals compared to the same period in 2018,” Seiveright pointed out.
Many in the music industry doubt that Vybz Kartel can give the tourism sector such a huge boost but the tourism industry would be happy if Kartel could pull just half of Buju Banton’s numbers.
Bartlett noted that in addition to the Buju Banton concert, the island benefited tremendously from the staging of other events including the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival, and the inaugural Jamaica Rum Festival.
The truth is, however, people can get blue mountain coffee and Jamaica rum anywhere in the world but Jamaica was the only place they could have seen Buju Banton live in his first performance in almost a decade.
“I am very happy to announce that tourism arrivals have been impacted positively by Buju Banton. He provided an opportunity for us to increase revenue by bringing more people to the island to enjoy the very best of our food, culture and music,” Bartlett said.
Whether or not Vybz Kartel can draw the size crowd that Buju Banton drew remains to be seen. First he would need to win his appeal in order to get that opportunity.
Vybz Kartel has been waiting the results of his appeal since July of 2018. He is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams.