Kingston is not an easy city to love. Its big, brash and boisterous. Life spills out from storefronts and homes onto the streets, filling the sidewalks and every inch of available space. Goats roam the downtown area, sidewalk vendors peddle all type of merchandise from carts and tables, pedestrians are everywhere.
— Jamaicans.com

WELCOME TO KINGSTON TOURIST

NOT EASY TO LOVE?

Kingston is different from the rest of Jamaica. Because of its international metropolitan character, you’ll blend in easy as a visitor. It’s not an easy city for sure, but hard to love? That’s where we don’t agree with the quote above. We dig the rest of the description though: Kingston as a homage to life itself, spilling out from everything you see and hear around you, constantly on the move. Kingston’s a place to keep your head up, literally. Cars will lick you if you don’t walk on the sidewalks, but pay attention even on those sidewalks and don’t fall into one of the many man sized potholes around. Don’t be intimidated by the constant traffic and blaring of horns, by vendors and (con)‘ductors’ vying for your attention, by the blistering sun making you sweat to the fullest… Take it all in (except for the exhaust fumes maybe) and work with it. Keep your head up and enjoy the ride.

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KINGSTON'S IDENTITY AS TOURISM DESTINATION

Although Kingston is one of the six official resort areas as defined by the Jamaica Tourist Board, it’s definitely the odd one out. The resort areas of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril account for more than 75% of all tourists. These are the sun-sea-beach areas where tourists don’t have to leave the gates of their all-inclusive resort (or are being told not). Then there’s the South Coast where well-off intellectuals and hippies read their books (1%) and the Port Antonio resort area where the even more well-off jetset mix up with bohemian backpackers (7%) in their boutique hotels and cabanas. And finally there’s Kingston, accounting for about 10% of all visitors. But lacking a clear identity as tourism resort area, or it would have to be ‘business tourism’, which sounds quite boring don’t it?

But all that is changing fast. Kingston is finally gaining traction as a cultural tourism destination. Backpackers and reggae lovers have obviously been finding their way in Town for decades now. What has changed is that policy makers nowadays are no longer afraid to look at areas like Trench Town and rasta urban farming initiatives like Life Yard as unique cultural experiences that can be touristically marketed. Visions of the redevelopment of downtown Kingston and its waterfront emerge, complete with cruise ships dropping of droves of tourists. Gleaner headlines like ‘Trench Town to Become Premier Tourist Destination’, ‘Tourists Flock To Ghettos For Cultural Tours’ and ‘Making Music Tourism Work in Kingston’ seem promising.

THINGS GET REALLY HYPE

And then, towards the end of 2015, when UNESCO awards Kingston the status of Creative City, things get really hype. Kingston is now officially recognised as a City of Music together with 18 other cities worldwide, one of the reasons being it is the birthplace of 6 distinct musical genres. About a year later, at the start of 2017, the New York Times grants Kingston place 24 on its list of 52 places to go in 2017 and explicitly mentions the Sunday Kingston Dub Club events as one of the reasons. Exactly another year later, Canada’s most popular travel-lifestyle magazine West Jet Magazine tops Kingston on its list of Must Visit destinations of 2018. In their feature article on why you should visit Kingston, Life Yard, Paint Jamaica and Trench Town Culture yard -all inner city grassroots initiatives- are prominently featured. And new creative projects like the weekly Downtown Kingston Creative Art Walks keep on popping up. Things have really changed indeed, it’s a good look. Come and explore Kingston with us.

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