Olympic glory has knock-on effect on tourism

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Jubilant fans at Jamaica House in Rio celebrate after Usain Bolt assists the men's 4x100m relay team to victory.
Jubilant fans at Jamaica House in Rio celebrate after Usain Bolt assists the men's 4x100m relay team to victory.
Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Athletes from, or connected to the Caribbean, did much in Rio to champion the Caribbean brand during the Olympics.

They are being hailed as ambassadors whether or not they ended up on medal stands, according to Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), and those who did achieve medal status deserve the region's highest accolades.

Riley said that the branding of the Caribbean's tourism product has benefited hugely from champions such as the Olympics athletes.

"To those who represented the Caribbean we especially offer our kudos. Those athletes, champions all, displayed the attributes we ascribe to brand champions," Riley said.

In Rio, the Caribbean region collected 28 medals, with Cuba and Jamaica tying for 11 medals apiece. The Bahamas collected two medals while the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago each collected one.

His recap of the top performances from the Caribbean athletes in Rio included Jamaica's newest sprint queen Elaine Thompson, the first woman to win the women's sprint double since Florence Griffith-Joyner; Shaunae Miller, the second woman from the Bahamas to win the women's 400 meter (Tonique Williams-Darling achieved the feat in 2004); Grenada's Kirani James, who won silver in the 400-meter final; and bronze medal winner Keshorn Walcott, who represented Trinidad and Tobago in the men's javelin competition.

"Hail to the king of them all, Jamaica's unstoppable Usain Bolt," Riley said.

The Jamaica Tourist Board used the Rio events as a platform to drive awareness of the country's hospitality through its Jamaica House facility, which served as a cultural hub for all things Jamaican and the place to be for fans, athletes, dignitaries, celebrities and media.

Over 20,000 visitors packed into Jamaica House, hosted at the Prado Jockey Club in Rio, for events on large screens and nightly entertainment by top Jamaican reggae artists, including I-Octane, Nature, Luciano and Ky-Mani Marley.

More than 180 travel agents were welcomed into the hospitality hub to experience a taste of the cuisine and culture of Jamaica. Sandals Resorts' senior group executive chef Glenroy Walker was on hand to prepare authentic Jamaican meals for approximately 1,000 Olympic fans daily.

"Not only was Jamaica a tremendous success in the world's premier sporting arena, but Jamaica House was the place to be in Rio," said Paul Pennicook, the island's director of tourism. "Searches for Jamaica spiked dramatically during the Games, as bookings rose by 170%."

According to Pennicook, the JTB will build on the momentum from Jamaica House and already is working with partners to increase airlift from Brazil and the region.

In her role as head of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Karolin Troubetzkoy, the executive director of Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain resorts in St. Lucia, said that the athletes serve as ambassadors for the Caribbean.

And, paying tribute to the accomplishments of St. Lucian Levern Spencer, who made it to the women's high jump finals, and the other members of St. Lucia's Olympic team, Troubetzkoy awarded the athletes a complimentary weekend stay at Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain.

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