NEW YORK -- Although the scope of many U.S. tourists' experiences
of Jamaica is limited to the confines of its gated, all-inclusive
resorts, the new My Jamaica marketing network of 82 smaller island
accommodations, restaurants, tour operators and attractions aims to
broaden those visitors' horizons.
My Jamaica coordinator Imani Duncan, who helped launch the
network at the Adventures in Travel Expo held here earlier this
month, said it's targeted at the lucrative "explorer" -- or
adventure, nature and cultural traveler -- market, which is made up
of vacationers who want to get to know a destination in depth while
supporting sustainable tourism efforts.
"Jamaica has some incredible products, with many interesting
things to do for that growing market segment," said Duncan, who was
hired last year along with her employer, the Boston-based
consultancy OTF Group, by the Jamaica Exporters Association to
identify and organize potential high-growth areas -- such as
adventure travel -- in the island's economy.
"But each supplier company was so small that the cost of trying
to penetrate that market individually was prohibitive," Duncan
said, so the firms banded together and derived the My Jamaica
A sampling of the network's membership includes:
• Accommodations: Strawberry Hill; Round Hill Hotel and Villas;
Jake's Village; and the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites.
• Tour operators: Caribe Vacations; Our Story Tours; Great
Vacations; and Tropical Tours.
• Adventure Operators: Chukka Adventure Tours; Jamaica Whitewater
Expeditions; Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours.
• Attractions/Events: Appleton Estate Rum Tours; Jungle Negril;
Reggae Sumfest; Forest Park; and Dolphin Cove.
• Restaurants: The Verandah; Restaurant Mille Fleurs; Gap Cafe;
Day-O Plantation Restaurant and Bar.
• Transport: Air Jamaica; Island Car Rental.
My Jamaica's tour product, which combines elements from all its
supplier members, offers "an integrated experience of Jamaica,"
The network's Web site, at www.explorejamaica.org, and call center at (800)
JAMAICA will peddle packaged and customized vacation products from
member tour operators -- all commissionable to U.S. travel agents
at the standard 10% rate.
"We found through market research a desire among agents in the
U.S. and the U.K. for proper destination-management company
partners that can ensure a quality vacation experience for their
clients," said Duncan. "Our members serve as local point people for
agents to call."
My Jamaica vacation programs fall into three categories:
• Jamaica Naturally, which includes soft-adventure products such
as hiking, biking, bird-watching and spelunking.
• Taste of Jamaica, with a focus on native culinary traditions
as well as local folk art.
• Roots Jamaica, which offers insight into the island's rich
cultural fabric, from dance halls and reggae clubs to historical
Great House plantation manors.
"When a country this size makes as big a cultural impact on the
world as Jamaica has, for people to go there and have no clue is
ridiculous," Duncan said.
Many member operators offer tours combining elements of two or
more categories; for example, Caribe Vacations' Ins and Outs of
Jamaica tour blends cave exploring and hiking (from Jamaica
Naturally) with jerk-chicken stand tastings and reggae bar evenings
(like Taste of Jamaica).
Of course, the tours are just suggestions, said Duncan.
"The idea is that, although we give examples of packages, agents
can call operators and they'll customize something," she said.
In short, My Jamaica's half- and full-day guided tours are
combined with a variety of accommodations and activities designed
to help clients become "part of the destination" rather than
observers "on the outside," Duncan said.
But is intimacy with Jamaica -- considered, fairly or not, a
dangerous destination by many -- a tough sell in the U.S.?
"You have to define whom you want to go after, and among the
American population there's a group we call 'explorers' -- people
who are more adventurous and know the world is uncertain," Duncan
"But we're aware too much uncertainty is not a good thing, so a
key part of our program is our tour guides, who know where to go
and where not to," she added. "They really open up Jamaica for
My Jamaica is partnering with the Jamaica Tourist Board and the
Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association -- venerable tourism
organizations that Duncan said once perceived explorer travelers as
"18-year-olds with backpacks and no money" -- to promote
sustainable adventure tourism.
"We're aware that if we're trying to shift or reposition Jamaica
as a culture-rich or nature-based destination, one group of
companies with one brochure and one Web site is not going to do
it," she said.
"Our idea is to cover all of Jamaica and have the best quality
of products and services on the island to offer our visitors."
For more information, call (800) JAMAICA or visit www.explorejamaica.org.
To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].