The Jamaica Tourist Board is expecting a “good 2021” as bookings return faster than expected.

Speaking on a webinar ahead of ex-UK flights restarting to Jamaica next week, regional director Elizabeth Fox said: “We are looking forward to a good 2021. We are coming back faster than we thought.”

The tourist board expects there to be one million fewer visitors to Jamaica this year compared to last but said bookings had already increased by 1% from minus 55% two weeks ago to 54% down last week.

Fox said: “It’s very encouraging because it means 50% of our bookings are coming back already. It’s a real opportunity. Demand has been stronger than we expected early on. I am looking forward to seeing how it changes especially now we are in recovery mode. I think we are going to have a really good year next year.”

Jamaica is on the Foreign Office’s list of “safe destinations” which means there is no 14-day quarantine on return to England.

British Airways resumes two of its usual three weekly flights to Kingston, Jamaica, on July 20. Airline seat capacity overall will be back “to more or less normal” in 2021 and will “fully recover” in 2022, according to Fox.

Virgin Atlantic has ‘indicated’ it will resume flights in early October while Tui has brought its start date back from September 30 to September 2.

“This is a good sign. Airlines are planning a return,” said Fox, who said tourist promotions would target affluent 25 to 47 year olds who are thought likely to return first to the destination.

Tourism marketing campaigns are initially aimed at the domestic travel market in Jamaica but will be rolled out to the UK “shortly”, possibly this autumn.

A UK travel agent sales blitz, originally planned pre-lockdown in Manchester, Birmingham and London, has been postponed until March 2021 but virtual sales calls with the trade will continue and more virtual fam trips are also planned.

Torrance Lewis, the tourist board’s district sales manager, said: “As soon as we can do actual fam trips we will, and we will be keeping up a high level of engagement with travel agents.”

Jamaica has recorded 762 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date and 10 deaths. It shut its borders quickly with little notice, said Fox, but in hindsight this was the right move.

Fox said: “At the time we were upset because we had no notice but its plan worked and it saved the Caribbean islands, particularly Jamaica.”

Currently travellers to the destination must stay in a “resilient corridor”, an area from and including Negril along the north coast to Portland, where properties have been inspected. Hotels have been awarded certificates to show they meet the necessary standards.

The area has been expanded to include the Treasure Beach and Black River area and will be reviewed at the end of the month.

The destination has imposed a strict set of travel protocols including the requirement for visitors to fill in a Travel Authorisation document five days ahead of departure, available from the tourist board’s website, which must be shown at the airport in order to allow travel and includes a health questionnaire.

Visitors will also be met at the airport in Jamaica by health officials where they will be assessed and have their temperature taken. There will be further tests for those with a raised temperature, which will require visitors to isolate for 24 hours while they await test results. If results are positive, visitors will have to stay in quarantine for 14 days.

Fox insisted full health checks and testing would not be carried out on all arrivals. “The majority of people arriving will not be tested as long as they have a Travel Authorisation document,” she added.