INSIGHT: Jamaica tourism chief's goals: mitigate impact of downturn, grow tourism market

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Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Despite a rough fourth quarter in 2008, when visitor figures plummeted throughout much of the Caribbean, Jamaica's tally at year's end totaled 1.77 million visitors, an increase over the 1.7 million it welcomed in 2007.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett attributed the increase to "intense advertising and promotion of the destination overseas."

The arrivals produced more than $2 billion in revenue for Jamaica.

Bartlett said that the availability of additional airlift gave Jamaica an edge over its Caribbean neighbors.

In addition, his earlier initiatives to cushion the financial crisis, which included a focus on growth markets for Jamaican tourism, such as Spain, China, India and Canada; more destination advertising; increased one-on-one visits with tour operator and travel agent partners; and focused fam trips for top producers appear to be bearing fruit. "All are critical to ensure that Jamaica's hotels and attractions are top of mind when travel plans are discussed with clients," Bartlett said.

New marketing strategies aimed at strengthening heritage, sports, health, religious, cultural and gourmet tourism also are in the works.

"We're not going to play dead; we are going to beat this thing," he said. "We have new products, great people and price competitiveness."

Bartlett admitted that this year could prove to be one of the most challenging for the tourism sector. However, the ramped-up marketing thrust began Jan. 6 with a major marketing promotion at the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan with banners, posters and one-on-one greetings to commuters. Jamaica takes to the streets of New York's five boroughs this week with posters displayed on all yellow taxis.

Additional stops on the "Jamaica Winter Rescue Program" will include commuter terminals in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia through mid-February.

"Many consumers are looking for relief during our current challenging economic situation," Bartlett said. "Our message is that Jamaica offers visitors accessibility and value and is the place to go when the weather outside is frightful."

The destination also is being promoted on more than 40 television channels in the U.S., with plans to increase advertising in states with large diaspora numbers.

"Our intention this year is to mitigate the impact of the financial downturn as well as increase growth in the tourism sector," Bartlett said.

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