When the history of the development of tourism in Jamaica is recounted, Desmond Henry’s contribution to the quality of leadership and quantity of market, will be tactical lessons for emulation. As Director of Tourism for the administration entrusted to pilot the Jamaica Tourist Board through one of its most difficult periods, he paved the way for the successful marketing of Jamaica as a total product.
To an era impatient for change, Desmond Henry’s boldness, vision and disarmingly relaxed demeanour and management style, were welcome attributes. He also brought to the post a keen understanding of the importance of marketing and promotion.
As Director of Tourism, he fuelled the optimism that redefined Jamaica’s image in the global marketplace. His fierce sense of national pride, also prompted him to continue the marketing effort using the theme, “We’re More Than a Beach. We’re a Country”. This campaign helped to highlight new Ways of experiencing the island’s uniqueness in the Caribbean. It fired the imagination of Jamaican nationals as well as the international community and prompted a rediscovery of Jamaica’s magic.
A believer in the power of the community, Desmond Henry implemented programmes to bridge the gap between visitors and hosts. He encouraged a feeling of pride in Jamaicans by creating awareness about their stake in the industry. Through the “Discover Jamaica” campaign which he mounted successfully, he broke down the barriers of indifference erected by many Jamaicans, including influential opinion leaders in business and academia.
So compelling was his vision, that the government was persuaded to legalize tax credits to companies whose employees vacationed in Jamaica. At the end of this veritable “Buy Jamaica” campaign, there was a dramatic revision of public opinion and attitude towards the industry, resulting in a marked increase in local financial investment in the sector.
The crowning achievement of his administration, was Jamaica’s successful venture into Europe. Despite the myths of the 1970s that defined the limits of the tourism marketplace, Desmond Henry, buoyed by the enthusiasm of Jamaicans and his intuitive sensing of the new spirit of adventure among Europeans, pursued and captured that formidable frontier. His zeal was matched by the tireless efforts of tourism giants, Moses Matalon and Compton Rodney, with whom he forged a partnership that influenced and refashioned the tourism thrust for the European market.
Desmond Henry’s potent vision continues to influence how Jamaica is presented to the rest of the world. In Essence, Desmond Henry, according to the Gleaner 1995 November 7 is synonymous with the term ‘tourism giant’.