Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Thu September 24 2015

Jamaica Tourism Officials Seek To Revive Historic Train Route

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | September 24, 2015

Jamaica Tourism Officials Seek To Revive Historic Train Route

PHOTO: Paul Pennicook, Jamaica’s tourism director. (Photo by Brian Major).

Jamaica’s government is discussing a plan to resume operations of a tourist railroad from the resort city of Montego Bay to the Appleton Estate rum-making facility in the country’s St. Elizabeth parish, said Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s minister of tourism and entertainment.

Previously known as the “Appleton Express,” the rail line took visitors on a north-south route across the island to the Appleton estate, where travelers embarked on tours of the rum-making plant and estate grounds.

Stops in communities along the route allowed visitors to interact with residents and purchase food, clothing and craft items. The train ceased operations in the 1990s.

In a report from the government-run Jamaica Information Service (JIS) on this week’s Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) conference in Montego Bay, McNeill said the rail service could become a marquee attraction.

“Recently we had some discussions with the Ministry of Transport and they have indicated that they are now moving forward,” he said. “We had a meeting very recently, inclusive of the Port Authority and others, and we are looking at reopening that tourist element.”

Jamaican tourism stakeholders are seeking to capitalize on the country’s growing tourism arrivals. Jamaica last year hosted nearly 2.1 million overnight visitors, the Caribbean’s third most behind only Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Tourism officials at JAPEX said the country is already preparing for a strong winter season. More than 60,000 new airline seats have been secured for Jamaica beginning in December said Paul Pennicook, Jamaica’s tourism director. He said more than 50,000 of the new seats will originate from the United States.

“Come December 18, American Airlines introduces a non-stop service from Los Angeles into Montego Bay on weekends,” he said. “Come November 1, Southwest Airlines introduces daily service from Houston into Montego Bay and come December 1, Frontier Airlines comes into Montego Bay for days per week from Philadelphia.” Delta Airlines will also increase its service to Jamaica from Minneapolis, said Pennicook.

“We are very excited about the future, because we are having new rooms built, we are having rooms refurbished, products are being upgraded, there are attractions and we have the airline seats to go with it,” he said. “So we are looking forward to a wonderful 2016.” 

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