Tourist industry regroups in Jamaica

The Jamaican
Tourist Board said it needs to focus on visitor reassurance during the recent
troubles in Kingston.

John Lynch,
chairman of the board and director of tourism, said that such a strategy was
vital as footage of the riots was everywhere in the media, including TV, print,
news sites on the Internet and through social media.

“What we
sought to do was to reassure visitors that Jamaica’s
resort areas are far removed from what was taking place in a small section of Kingston,” he told Gay Myers of Travel
Weekly.

“We continued
to emphasize the distance between the north coast resort areas of Montego Bay
and Ocho Rios and Kingston:
112 miles and 62 miles, respectively, with mountains in between. Sangster Airport
[in Montego Bay] never closed; when arrival and departure schedules at Norman Manley
Airport in Kingston were disrupted, we put that
information out to keep agents and visitors fully informed.”

Mr. Lynch
continued that no more than a couple of hundred cancellations had been received
although hoteliers had reported that potential visitors were looking for reassurance
that Jamaica
was safe as a destination. North coast hotels, he said, did very well during
the unrest.

Usain Bolt

As a result of
the troubles, the Usain Bolt advertising had been temporarily pulled off-air
and the tourist board said it was returning to a softer approach to
advertising, which mirrored their post-9/11 campaigns. Advertisements will now
focus on the One Love theme which is traditionally associated with Jamaica, he
said.

Mr. Lynch
added that the tourist board will be taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to
their marketing for the rest of the year. There will be a series of summer roadshows
in the United States
where the tourist board will be joined by hotels and attractions.

Kingston itself has never been a heavily-promoted
destination, but events and meetings had been impacted by the riots, conceded
the tourism boss. Those markets will be targeted in a specific way, he said.

He concluded
that it was impossible to gauge which bookings have been lost from people who
might have decided not to visit Jamaica
because of the troubles. It was now important for the country to communicate
with its wholesalers, travel agents and partners to make sure that they had a
full overview of the status of the resorts and travel sector.

“We don’t want
to lose the momentum or market share that Jamaica had from January through
mid-May.

“We have a
campaign that’s in the embryonic stage right now. As the situation in Kingston stabilises and
schools and businesses reopen, our focus is on our travel agent partners,
because in these times, an educated agent is our best ally. We’re bringing
3,000 agents to the resort areas this month and again in September and October.
Travel agents understand our tourist product best. We want them here to see for
themselves that our resorts are not and have not been impacted by what has happened
in Kingston,”
he said.