The parish of St. Thomas located east of Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston is expected to become the island’s next popular tourist destination. Access to what has been called the “forgotten parish” will be facilitated in August 2023 with the completion of a section of the Southern Coastal Highway Project. The highway represents a portion of Jamaica’s plan to provide better access to communities in the country’s more remote areas.
The St. Thomas Area
St. Thomas is known for its natural beauty, history, agriculture, fishing, and surfing. Located in the parish are the Blue Mountains, the Bath Fountain mineral spring, Reggae Falls, and Bob Marley Beach. The parish currently is home to about 3.5 percent of Jamaica’s population but receives less than one percent of its tourists. Most visitors to St. Thomas are Jamaican residents.
According to Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, the area would see controlled growth and environmentally friendly development that will make it a hub for low-density, high-value tourism. Jamaica will spend over $200 million on 51 projects over the next ten years, with plans including the addition of over 4,000 hotel rooms in the parish by 2030. There are also plans to improve Rocky Point Beach and upgrade current roads and water pipelines.
Investors and Developers
Bartlett reported in 2022 that about $1 billion in investments had been made in the area, with investors from the Dominican Republic considering projects in St. Thomas in the future. The Woof Group, which purchased 200 acres of land near Bob Marley Beach in Bull Bay, is developing a luxury resort in the parish, a project totaling some $200 million. In 2020, the construction of a St. Regis Hotel was announced for Bull Bay, with an upscale residential community, the Sun Coast Beach Club costing $22 billion, is underway at present and will locate 396 units on 90 acres.
Tourism Destination Development Plan
The St. Thomas Tourism Destination Development Plan has envisioned 230,000 stayover visitors and 65,000 day visitors each year for the region. This would represent significant growth from the 5,775 overall visitors who traveled to St. Thomas in 2018. To date in 2023, Jamaica has attracted over 1 million tourists, and according to Bartlett, the closeness of St. Thomas to Kingston and Norman Manley International Airport is expected to bring significant tourist development once the four-lane highway facilitates access to the area. As Bartlett noted, Jamaica has many geographical areas that are currently “untouched, unspoiled” as Jamaica is likely one of the few destinations in the Caribbean to have such areas. “One of them is St. Thomas,” he said.