The reorganization of the Jamaica Tourist Board and the appointment of John Pringle as Jamaica’s first Director of Tourism in June 1963, signaled a new approach to the industry and government’s willingness to give greater priority to tourism development.John Pringle who was also Chairman of the Board was to serve the industry for three years and nine months until his retirement on March 31, 1967. Refusing to allow the JTB to “rest on its accomplishments”, his tenure marked a period of rapid growth and great excitement in tourism. It was a time in which visitor arrival records were set and broken.In this new era, the JTB’s first order of business was to reverse the decline in arrivals by increasing its marketing initiatives and developing a new image for Jamaica. Leading New York advertising firm Doyle, Dane and Bernbach was appointed to spearhead this effort along with public relations firms Sontheimer & Company, Inc. of New York and Michael Rice & Company of London. The JTB also eliminated the post of General Manager for North America and appointed a Director of Sales with responsibility for the North American and United Kingdom – European offices, a move which was credited with contributing to record tourist arrivals.Recognizing the uniqueness of Jamaica’s artistic and cultural expressions and their potential to greatly enhance the island’s attractiveness, the JTB adopted an integrated approach to its marketing effort. The use of Jamaica’s fashion, cigars, rum, ceramics, coffee, gourmet foods, jewelry, art, music and culture in its campaigns, gained for the island increased exposure and recognition overseas, primarily in North America.
An award winning advertising campaign representing “the true and fascinating face of Jamaica” was hailed as the “most talked about” in the travel industry and came to be “recognized by the travel and advertising trades as one of the most effective ever employed to promote a country’s tourism”. Jamaica’s diversity was portrayed in creatively executed advertisements in markets of up to 167 million. Leading companies such as Colgate-Palmolive, Timex, Seven-Up and Samsonite Luggage all used Jamaican themes in their advertising. This was complemented by ambitious and unrelenting publicity and promotional campaigns, which at the time produced unprecedented results.Over the period 1964-65 the North American publicity campaign yielded a “recorded average of better than 100 newsbreaks every week in the year.” Prestigious department stores such as Macy’s, “the world’s largest department store”, adopted “Jamaican themes for their merchandising and for their promotional dollars”. The Macy’s winter resort promotion, “Macy’s Flew to Jamaica”, was not only highly successful but had a significant impact on Jamaica’s image in the marketplace. The island was also featured in numerous publications and sales team representatives appeared on a number of radio and television programmes.Many familiarization trips were organized for travel agents and hundreds of editors were invited to visit and write stories about Jamaica. Major stations and independent networks were also encouraged to visit Jamaica. The JTB’s “Jamaica Newsletter” provided information for over 3,000 travel agents. The “Value Guide to the Hotels of Jamaica” published by the Board was acknowledged by the travel industry as showing “exceptional imagination and vision toward the long term growth of tourism”, and praised worldwide “as one of the most important contributions ever offered to the travel industry by any country.” In 1965, 208 groups visited Jamaica compared to 55 in 1964.During the period, the JTB’s effort also helped to establish Jamaica as “a serious film centre, for both theatrical and commercial productions” such as High Wind in Jamaica, Father Goose, The Confession, Red Over Red and Oh Dad, Poor Dad. The film Our Man Flint, which gained “worldwide success”, held its premiere in Jamaica in 1965.Recognizing the “ready source of business” that meetings and conventions could provide in this era of mass tourism, emphasis was also placed on developing this aspect of the industry. The JTB also promoted the island by endorsing a number of special events including sporting competitions such as the Commonwealth Games held in Kingston in 1966, the Montego Bay / Miami Yacht Race, the Jamaica International Fishing Tournament, Pepsi Cola and Sunshine Golf Tournaments, among others.By the end of 1963, the JTB had established a fully functioning photography department as well as a new library reputed to be “the finest in the Caribbean”. The Courtesy Corps was reorganized and its number increased to 32. A Security and Complaints Bureau was established in 1964 “to deal with security in hotels and to handle all complaints other than in-bond shopping”. The Bureau was responsible for the Courtesy Corps whose function was to police the tourist areas and provide “information and protection to visitors and citizens alike.” Progress was also made regarding the regulation of the industry with the passing of legislation to allow for the metering of taxicabs as well as to “discourage unethical trading by holders of Duty free licences.” The first international convention of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) was also held in 1963. By 1965 the JTB’s Statistical Department was changed to the Research and Statistical Department.To increase the island’s competitiveness and its allure for visitors, the JTB placed great emphasis on lobbying major airlines to offer lower fares to Jamaica. “Operation Evergreen” a project implemented by Air Canada in association with the JTB, “stimulated travel to Jamaica from western Canada.” Much emphasis was also placed by the JTB on encouraging and sustaining growth in cruise shipping. A multi-million pound harbour was scheduled to be built in Montego Bay to facilitate cruise business and the construction of the New Port West “deep water facility” in Kingston was nearing completion.The JTB also made an effort to “promote understanding of tourism’s importance to the well-being of all Jamaica” and considered this one of the Board’s “chief endeavours.” Emphasis was placed on training for hotel staff, a feature of which was the offer an annual “Ma” Ewen scholarship to facilitate study at the hotel training school in Lusanne Switzwerland. Through its “Bridging the Gap” seminars which had its genesis in 1964, the JTB created an opportunity for hotel workers to interact with representatives of the University of the West Indies, Government and the business community. The JTB also sponsored a twice weekly broadcast by Louise Bennett to foster “a better understanding of human relationships” and a “Meet the Board” programme was launched to familiarize Government with the functioning of the JTB. To facilitate vendors and visitors, kiosks were designed for vendors in the Mount Diablo – Faith’s Pen Area.
Emphasis on the nexus between tourism and other sectors gave rise to the establishment of organizations such as the Jamaica Fashion Export Guild, which was created by the JTB in 1966 “to improve and market our fashion products.” An “Interesting People” guide listing 150 Jamaicans with special interests was also produced and made available to tourists.The JTB’s effort to reverse the three-year decline in visitor arrivals was rewarded with the industry’s rebound in 1964. According to a report in the Daily Gleaner newspaper, 1964 was as a “Record Tourist Year” with and an increase in revenue of £1,200,000. The pattern of growth continued into 1965, which was hailed by the Daily Gleaner as the “Best-Ever Year” with the island being declared by John Pringle according to the newspaper report as the “fastest growing travel area in the world.” Jamaica welcomed 316,000 visitors and earned an estimated £23,000,000, a feat which placed tourism “second only to bauxite as revenue earner.”By 1965 the JTB shifted its focus to infrastructural development as the accommodation sub-sector could not keep pace with the growing number of visitor arrivals. The need for more rooms was underscored especially with the anticipated revolution in the travel industry with the coming of the “jumbo jet age”.To modernize its operations the JTB acquired Telex service to link its head office with its operations overseas and also collaborated with the JHTA to use these services to report space availability in Jamaica. The Board also made changes in its statistical reporting. As of March 1966 long stay visitors were defined as “those staying on the island for three nights or more instead of over three days.” Short stay was categorized as those staying one or two nights. Some categories of “transient” visitors also ceased to be “rated as tourists by international standards.” Armed forces were shown separately as their numbers were not considered by the JTB to be influenced by the Board’s promotional efforts.By March 1967, “Jamaica was the “in” place and “one of the most sought after destinations in the world.” The “year round strength of Jamaica’s tourism virtually eliminated the traditional doldrums of the ‘off season’ ” and the island’s profile was high internationally. 1966 was seen as a “summit year for tourism” with total arrivals at 345,288 and earnings of £28,000,000.With the appointment of E. Stuart Sharpe, former Director of Sales and Promotion at the JTB as Director of Tourism on April 1, 1967, the industry’s development in Jamaica entered a new phase with “strategic changes in both administration and policy.” The emphasis was now on “planning for future overall development and for the orderly expansion of the industry.”While continuing its intense advertising and promotional campaigns, the JTB also embarked on a programme to increase visitor accommodation on the island, train industry workers with the opening of the Jamaica Training School at Hotel Casa Monte in St. Andrew in 1969 and prepare the tourism sector to meet the increased demand for services. Greater emphasis was also placed on local public relations with the introduction of a “Careers in Tourism” lecture programme for schools in 1967. In February 1968 Fred Wilmot was appointed Head of Public Relations for the JTB. To encourage growth in the accommodation sub-sector “a new Development Department” was created and Assistant Director of Tourism, Eric A. Abrahams (Jnr.) appointed as its manager. The department was responsible for “reviewing applications under the new Hotels (Incentive) Act 1968, and supplying detailed information on Jamaica’s tourist industry to prospective investors, in close co-operation with the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation.”It was expected that the provisions under the new act would galvanize investors to construct new hotels since none had been built between 1963 and 1966. By March 31, 1969, under the guidance of the Development Department, 22 hotel projects were underway. Emphasis was also placed on “the use of villas and apartments to supplement scarce hotel accommodation.” This led to the formation of the Jamaica Association of Villas and Apartments (JAVA) in 1967 with the financial assistance and sponsorship of the JTB.As tourism flourished the JTB found it necessary to open an office in Port Antonio in 1967. Under the Portland River Craft (Amendment) Regulations 1967, the Board also assumed responsibility for Rafting on the Rio Grande River operations, instituting a roster system for the rafts-men and managing all ticket sales. Between October 1967 and March 1968 under the JTB’s guidance, 6,762 rafting trips were made, “a number far in excess of the previous best figure for any comparable period.” Between April 1, 1968 and March 31, 1969 the JTB recorded some 15,760 rafting trips on the Rio Grande and paid £44,128 in fees to the rafts-men. Parliament later enacted the River Rafting Act 1969 which placed river rafting under the River Rafting Authority.To increase efficiency both in service delivery and administration, a number of changes were made. Through the JTB a porter service was instituted at the airport in 1967 and by April 1, 1969 airport dispatchers who were responsible for recording “all departing contract carriages and their destinations”, were absorbed into the Courtesy Corps. At its headquarters the JTB’s editorial section was renamed the News Bureau and its role expanded to disseminate news both locally and internationally. The name of the Security and Complaints Bureau was also changed to the Visitor Services Bureau. To cope with the increasing number of visitors to the island, “Resident Managers” were appointed for the Montego Bay and Ocho Rios / Runaway Bay areas in April 1969.In February 1968 the JTB appointed the New York Public Relations firm, Bell & Stanton, Inc. to replace Sontheimer & Company, Inc. of New York. A “permanent” sales office was established in Montreal, Canada and the Board opened a Cruise and Convention office in Miami, Florida in 1968, a year in which group travel to Jamaica was 12.5% of total long-stay visitors.Through creative and award winning advertising, publicity and promotional efforts the JTB continued to woo visitors through extensive magazine, television and radio coverage for Jamaica. Numerous familiarization trips to the island were also organized for travel agents and media personnel. By 1968 both the MV Steward and the Jamaica Queen were offering weekly cruise ship services between Jamaica and Miami and total visitor arrival figures stood at 396,347 with estimated tourist expenditure on the island at US$87,800,000. By 1970, 80% of Jamaica’s tourism market was in the United States of America.The 1970s heralded changes for Jamaica and increasing challenges for the island’s tourist industry. An economic recession in United States of America and the resulting devaluation of the American dollar, curtailed spending in major North American markets. This, coupled with the 1972 General Elections in Jamaica and increasing competition from other destinations, were just some of the hurdles that the JTB encountered. Once again, the JTB would also change administration.The amendment of the Tourist Board Law in April 1970, provided for “a Director of Tourism, not less than four nor more than seven other members and that one of the members shall be appointed Chairman.” Eric A. Abrahams (Jnr.) who had been acting in the post was confirmed as Director and also appointed Chairman.The new administration signalled its intent with a multi-focused approach to tourism development. The Board continued its aggressive marketing thrust with a “realigned sales organization” and the creation of a Sales and Marketing Department under a Director of Marketing. The new appointee was stationed in the United States of America as it was recognized that overseas marketing could not be effectively handled from Kingston. To surmount its new challenges, the JTB introduced a variety of new products and sales programmes to entice visitors to Jamaica.A Group Inclusive Tour Vacation Package, made airfares and rooms more affordable; the Jamaica Dowry a unique product was creatively packaged for the honeymoon market and co-opted the services of the Fashion Guild; Inclusive Tour Charters were especially planned to increase visitor arrivals from Canada; the award winning Nursemaid programme encouraged family travel and the Early Bird Fare presented a “bargain vacation package” for the Great Britain market. A Direct Sales Programme was implemented to focus on “point of sale” through travel agents. In 1971 a number of seminars were organized for the sales force and “Jamaica Buckaneering”, an incentive scheme, was devised to encourage increased business. The JTB also expanded its Sales and Marketing Department to 12 operating offices. To facilitate cruise tourism, the Board published the Jamaica Port Information and Cruise Manual.By 1970 the hotel training school had produced 150 graduates and Rafting on the Martha Brae River was introduced as a new attraction in December 1970.Changing demographics in the island’s key markets underscored the need for a more detailed approach to marketing in order to get the best possible returns for Jamaica. In 1970 the JTB “initiated newspaper advertising” and mounted an overall campaign which “represented the most powerful and heaviest barrage of dramatic prize winning advertising in the history of Jamaica.” By the end of the year Jamaica’s message reportedly reached 96% of households, an average of 30.5 times through advertising.Despite an 11.4%, decline in cruise passenger arrivals, Jamaica ended 1970 “in a better position than most, if not all our Caribbean competitors”. There was an 11.6% increase in stopover arrivals, “the highest annual increase since 1966” with Jamaica exceeding the 300,000 mark for the first time. Between 1969 and 1971 the number of stopover visitors grew by 30%.In 1970 the JTB also focused on improving local public relations. The “Director’s” tour which enabled the JTB head to speak to various groups to promote a greater understanding about tourism, was changed to a “listening tour” where the views of those in the industry were sought. The JTB also worked with the JHTA to develop a plan to introduce tourism into the schools at all levels. An effort was also made to reach the student population through a Schools Lecture Programme and the JTB published a “Careers in Tourism” booklet. An effort was made to increase the interaction between visitors and Jamaicans through the “Meet the People” and the “New Experiences Programmes.”By early 1971 the first local advertising campaign to sensitise Jamaicans to the importance of tourism was mounted and in 1972 the JTB launched a School’s Essay Competition.To increase Jamaica’s attractiveness the JTB inaugurated a programme to develop new tours and excursions to rural areas and historical sites. The first “Visitor Profile and Reaction Survey” was conducted in 1971 to determine visitor needs in an effort to improve the vacation experience. In February 1971, the JTB launched an “Evening on the Great River” on an experimental basis. Construction of the Tropic gardens of Montego Bay commenced on July 27, 1972. Later in 1973, the JTB was to launch its Kingston Talawah attractions programme, assume operations of Fort Charles in Port Royal as well as Rafters Rest in Port Antonio. To improve the quality of entertainment, the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) also opened the “Entertainers Workshop”. Accommodation facilities were also being improved with excellent results as by 1971, the JTB reported an “over-abundance of hotel rooms”. By the end of March 1971, “42 enterprises with 3,004 rooms [received] benefits under the Hotels Incentive Act” and 1,114 rooms were under construction. By March 1974, 55 projects with 5,924 rooms were approved under the Act. The Resort Cottage (Incentives) Act was also approved in 1971 and to further improve the product, by that same year all 119 hotels in Jamaica were being inspected by the JTB. By March 31, 1974, 91 cottages with 140 bedrooms were approved under the Resort Cottages Incentives Act.To modernize its operations and increase efficiency the JTB’s market planning activities were for the first time “done a year in advance of the seasons affected” instead of on a season-to- season basis and in 1971 for the first time, the JTB’s “entire travel trade mailing list” was put on “computer tape” for increased efficiency. This paved the way for further technological advancement in 1973 when “for the first time the preparation of basic data was undertaken … with the use of a computer.” In 1972 the Board formed a “Tourism Product Liaison Committee” to access the expertise of persons in the industry.With the change of government following the General Elections of February 1972, a new Ministry of Industry and Tourism came into effect on March 10 to replace the Ministry of Trade and Industry.The effects of the continued recession in the United States of America and increasing crime and violence in Jamaica were reflected in the decline in cruise arrivals, a situation which the JTB sought to remedy with a number of initiatives. In 1972 the Board staged a successful “Summer / Fall Product Show” across the United States in which over 3,000 travel agents participated. The organization mounted a campaign using “full scale newspaper advertising” as well as “newsweeklies” resulting in the “most powerful campaign that Jamaica has ever had … [and] one of the most powerful campaigns of any tourist board in the entire world.” The JTB also changed its focus in the United Kingdom to attract a wider market by introducing less expensive vacation packages.Encouraged by the JTB’s lobbying efforts, Eastern Airlines began a new service between Atlanta and Jamaica on July 1, 1972 with Pan American Airlines set to provide non-stop service between Chicago and Jamaica. In its bid to make significant inroads into the meetings and conventions market, the JTB initiated the visit of the “Norcliff Laboratories” group to Jamaica which comprised 3,700 members. The Board made and distributed short radio features for the North American market and there were 21 telecasts of JTB films which reached an estimated audience of 864,000.By September 1972, “a completely new approach was taken, whereby the major tourism impact was directed at the consumer instead of the travel trade as had been traditional.” “Consumer promotions” were tried for the first time in Atlanta Georgia. The fiscal year 1972/ 1973 was the year in which one of the JTB’s most memorable posters featuring “Sintra Berrington” and its subject captured the imagination of the travel market and enticed underwater enthusiasts to explore the beauty of “underwater Jamaica.”
The first “‘original’ United Kingdom advertisements” were also made in 1972 and in that year 16,860 visitors were flown to Jamaica from London on “Thomson’s Charters” representing an increase of 82% increase in visitors from that area. Arrivals moved from approximately 9,000, a figure which had been the norm for about four years. By 1973 the Jamaica Tourist Board was focusing on encouraging Jamaican nationals residing in the United Kingdom to vacation in Jamaican hotels.The challenges of the 1970s were compounded with deteriorating public attitude towards tourists. A study was undertaken to examine the attitudes of Jamaicans to tourism and an aggressive local media campaign was mounted to heighten awareness concerning the industry’s importance. October 1972 was declared “Tourism Month” by the Government and among the many planned activities was a “massive rally” in Montego Bay.By the end of 1972, there was an increase of 13.5% in stopover arrivals and despite the decline in the number of cruise calls to Kingston, there was a “sharp rise” in the numbers visiting Montego Bay for an overall increase of 7.7% in cruise passenger arrivals. Total arrival for Jamaica was 479,256 with visitor expenditure estimated at US$135,693,000. The JTB also introduced a new survey in 1972 to calculate visitor expenditure.Although the period continued to be marked by “instability in international monetary affairs” and the fuel crisis, Jamaica was one of the few destinations to record growth in 1973. The number of visitors to Jamaica “topped the half million mark for the first time in the industry’s history.” In early 1973 the Jamaican dollar which was introduced in 1969 was tied to the US dollar instead of the English pound and with J$1.00 being equivalent to US$1.00, holidays in Jamaica became less expensive and more attractive to visitors. A subsequent devaluation of the Jamaica dollar also proved advantageous to visitors. By the end of the year over 509,707 tourists (28.0% in cruise passengers) had visited Jamaica (excluding armed forces) and earnings from the industry were estimated at US$127,603,000. In 1974, the yearly average of black visitors to Jamaica was 9% of total arrivals.Ever mindful of the need to constantly upgrade its facilities and services to remain competitive, the JTB launched a number of initiatives between 1973 and 1974.In October 1973 the JTB created the new position of Assistant Director of Tourism for North America. The year was also marked with the establishment of a Product and Industry Affairs division headed by an Assistant Director of Tourism. A Product Officer was appointed to oversee the upgrading of hotel properties and the Hotel Licencing Regulations and Resort Cottage Licencing Act, was revised. A supervisor was appointed to monitor the transportation sub-sector and the JTB also began a two year in-service training programme for the training of 8,500 hotel staff. On September 1, 1973 the “Tropic Gardens of Montego Bay” a J$400,000 Botanical and Zoological garden on 25 acres at Irwin in Montego Bay was opened as a new attraction.In August 1973 the JTB’s new office at Cornwall Beach in Montego Bay opened and the Board’s North Coast Manager installed. Construction commenced on a new cruise ship pier in Port Antonio while the Forum in St. Catherine, the Trelawny Beach and the Pegasus, all convention hotels were opened. In 1973 Jamaica’s Government appointed a consultant to formulate a National Plan for Tourism; Winnie Risden succeeded Marcella Martinez (who was promoted to Assistant Director of Tourism, North America) as head of the Board’s Public Relations Department and in December 1973 the JTB appointed Public Relations Services, a new public relations affiliate in Canada as well as a new sales manager.Meanwhile the Board continued to sell Jamaica to Jamaicans and it was felt that an “impression on popular consciousness” was being made concerning the importance of tourism to the island. To observe Tourism Month a Poster Competition was launched for students 19 years and younger and in 1973 some 1,200 Jamaican volunteers hosted 6,000 visitors through the “Meet the People Programme.”Despite the difficulties of this period caused by the rise in fuel prices which had negative implications for international travel, a shortage of newsprint, the institution of a three-day work week and a miners’ strike in Britain, as well as the international monetary crisis; 1973 was a record year for the JTB’s advertising, publicity and promotional campaigns overseasDuring the year the Board shifted its focus to using the broadcast media, especially television, in the United States of America as studies had shown that the public was now depending “more on the electronic media for its news and gives it greater credibility.” The volume of print publicity received in North America by the end of the financial year in 1994, amounted to 120,000 column inches which “would have filled the Daily Gleaner for twenty seven average days, top to bottom, without a single line in advertising”.The Jamaica Tourist Board’s advertising campaign of 1974 “continued to reflect its faith in the future of tourism in Jamaica. It was one of the most powerful and most dramatic presentations of the Jamaican story in the history of Jamaica.”