Air J forgetting

All of last week South Florida media were promoting weddings in Barbados. And our own Air Jamaica had a starring role in this wedding package promotion to Barbados. The promotion included giveaways of US$500,000 and trips to the allinclusive Almond Resorts in that island. Then last Saturday there was live radio broadcast from Bridgetown to Florida, in furtherance of this promotion. I have no idea how this promotion was funded and even if Air Jamaicas input was minimal, I have a serious problem with the concept.

Air Jamaicas vicepresident of Marketing, George deMercado, was reported in the media as endorsing this Barbados thrust into the wedding market via IdoBarbados.com. The promotion includes an offer of upgrades to the bride and groom when 20 or more of their wedding party guests travel to Barbados on Air Jamaica.

It struck me as odd that the national airline should be promoting weddings in Barbados when Jamaican properties such as Sandals and Superclubs, are spending huge amounts of their own money to establish themselves as the Caribbean destination for weddings. Ironically this is happening at a time when the new Minister of Tourism, Ed Bartlett, is trekking all over the world in search of new business for Jamaica as the Government seeks to fulfill its promise of more jobs for our people.

Fund other projects

So what really is the mission of Air Jamaica? If the taxpayers of this country are being asked to continue to fund this airline on the basis that it exists to promote Jamaica as a tour and travel destination why are we aiding Barbados in competing with our own tourism product? Money spent on tourism promotion is not designed to help the hotel sector only, it is an investment intended to earn rewards for the entire country. Tax revenues generated by the tourism industry enable the state to fund other projects.

Call me insular if you want, but given the fractured nature of Air Jamaica’s financial situation, I find it disconcerting that our national airline should participate and endorse Barbados in its bid to cut into our market.

Every tourist that is diverted from Jamaica means there is less food on the table for some of our people.

For that is what is happening. Barbados offers the same sand, sea and sunshine, besides they have less crime. So it is not difficult for them to pull the rug from under our feet. The one thing Barbados doesn’t have is a national airline. Why should Jamaican taxpayers be saddled with the burden of a failing carrier when as soon as it gets new money from Parliament it runs off seeking to promote another country’s tourism product?

The powerful and vocal minority that have been making the case for Government to pump more and more money into this national airline would be hardpressed to explain the justification for participating in any promotion which could result in diverting tourist traffic from Jamaica to anywhere else.

The litmus test

Those in business say making any kind of investment should result in a return two or three times over. How much did Air Jamaica spend in this promotion? Will Mike Conway tell the Jamaican people why instead of building momentum with our wedding and honeymoon packages we are seeking to carry planeloads of foreigners into Barbados?

Should the litmus test of what is in it for Jamaica be applied to any kind of investment/promotion in which Air Jamaica participates?

The other question on my mind is who monitors promotions such as these to determine if the investment brings in the returns predicted? Overall the effectiveness in all promotional efforts should be reflected in increased business for Jamaica. So if the promotion fails to achieve its objectives are there consequences?

Air Jamaica has a new chairman in the thoughtful, no-nonsense Shirley Williams, I trust that she will make some dramatic changes at Air Jamaica and ensure that people who are at the helm of the national airline are national in outlook and understand that in this ‘dog eat dog’ world, Jamaica should look after its interests first.

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