Jamaica is giving some credit to travel agents for helping to minimize the damage to Jamaica's tourism industry during the crisis in June sparked by riots in west Kingston.

The Jamaica Tourist Board launched an aggressive $10 million marketing campaign in key U.S., U.K. and Canadian markets designed to improve Jamaica's image, but it was the agent partners who got the message across, according to John Lynch, director of tourism.

"The agents really helped," Lynch said. "They knew what was happening and where and added a sense of geography that reassured their clients."

The riots surrounding the capture of drug lord Christopher Coke, now in custody in New York, took place in Kingston on Jamaica's southeast coast, which is more than 100 miles from the tourist areas of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril on the island's north and northwest coasts.

"They reassured their clients, and our visitor numbers in July, up 4% over July 2009, attest to that," Lynch said.

The U.S. State Department dropped its two-month-long travel alert to Jamaica in late July, which also reinforced the JTB's efforts.

Kingston, never a major tourist area, attracts large numbers of business, embassy and government officials, so the lifting of the alert will help that market segment regrow, according to Lynch.

The JTB supplemented its marketing moves with new videos on its website, a revival of its "One Love" consumer TV and print ads, and road shows in 18 U.S. cities in July, which attracted more than 2,000 agents. Another 2,000 agents will descend on Jamaica's tourist sites in September in four separate fam trips of 500 agents each.

This report appeared in the Aug. 9 issue of Travel Weekly.


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