DISCOVER JAMAICA / WE ARE MORE THAN A BEACH… (1975-1984)
After more than 25 years of continuous growth, 1975 marked the second year of decline in international travel. The effects were not only felt in Jamaica but elsewhere in the Caribbean, Europe and Mexico. It was a period that would prove to be one of the most challenging for the Jamaica Tourist Board.Following the appointment of Adrian Robinson as Director of Tourism in 1975 the JTB was restructured. The new administration gave notice of its intent to focus on Jamaica and Jamaicans, when in August 1975, the Domestic Marketing and Development Department, formerly a division within the JTB’s Public Relations Department, was expanded to create “a better climate of understanding” among Jamaicans about tourism and to encourage them to vacation in Jamaica. Two divisional managers- one for Planning and the other for Research and Statistics- were also appointed.To increase its efficiency, in June 1975 the JTB initiated a “computerized system that data-processes newspaper, magazine and newsletter clipping returns, and radio and television reports. It sorts out the coverage, market by market; it identifies the “message” contained in all stories and in broadcasts in support of the Board’s marketing aims.”The New Tourism Charter on which the JTB had collaborated was presented by the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Foreign Trade in December 1975. One of its important features was the “restriction in the growth of visitor accommodation until overall occupancy levels have attained at least 55% for two consecutive years.” In 1975 the JTB also completed negotiations with the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) to improve operations at Lime Cay by constructing a jetty, toilet facilities, additional “rondavels” and barbecue as well as playground equipment for children. Development was scheduled to begin began in 1976.
Under the new Domestic Marketing and Development Department, 1976 was declared “The year to Discover Jamaica”. This was to be one of the JTB’s major thrusts for the remainder of the 1970s as the Board adopted a “new approach” to tourism and embarked on a programme to “offer a product that meets the needs of the consumer, yet at the same time reflect the pride, the aspirations and needs of Jamaica.” The “Discover Jamaica” local marketing campaign which emerged, was to be one of the most memorable in the island’s tourism history and was augmented by the message “A Fi Wi Country” which was put to music by local artiste Max Romeo, to remind Jamaicans that they could be “visitors” in their own country.The Board aimed to make the industry “more harmonious with the Jamaican society” and endeavored to concentrate all effort “on making Jamaicans feel satisfied about tourism.” Jamaicans were to be central instead of “peripheral to the visitor industry” and activities were to be seen as benefiting the people.“Discover Jamaica” and later “Vacation ‘77” packages were introduced to encourage locals to vacation in Jamaica, and a new entity “Vacation Sales Limited”, a division of Jamaica Attractions Development Company (JADCO) was created to sell packages. An accompanying public education programme was devised to “explain hotel etiquette” and the JTB developed a slide series “for viewing by the private and public sectors … to remove any anxieties experienced by Jamaicans with regard to staying in hotels and to encourage dialogue between the JTB and the public on any problems within the industry.” Special programmes were also produced for Jamaican radio and television and advertisements placed with the print media. The JTB introduced local journalists to the tourism product through familiarization tours to key resort areas. Her Excellency the Hon. Lady Glasspole wife of the then Governor General Sir Florizel Glasspole was made patron of the “Meet the People Programme” through which 9,000 visitors were hosted in 1976.With the restructuring of the JTB came the establishment of Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO) as a subsidiary of the Board. Some agencies which had previously fallen under the Board’s direct administration including the Visitors Service Bureau and the Courtesy Corps were transferred to this new company. The TPDCO was also made responsible for training, inspection and the licensing of hotels and cottages. A Director of Standards was appointed.
While attempts were being made locally in 1976 to encourage Jamaicans to view tourism more positively, the JTB faced a number of crises concerning Jamaica’s image internationally. By then “crime and violence began on an increased scale to be the everyday question that had to be answered,” and this was exacerbated by the demonstrations that occurred that year at the meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Kingston. Following “one of the best years for Jamaica’s tourism,” this ushered in a period of “disastrous decline”.Foreign media coverage of the State of Emergency in June 1976 resulting from violence in areas of Kingston, the General Elections in December of that same year as well as “Jamaica’s political stance in regard to Cuba, presented Jamaica as a violent and unstable society.” This made it increasingly difficult for the JTB to market the island and necessitated greater effort to both promote tourism in Jamaica and counter the image of violence overseas. At the end of 1976 visitor arrivals were 470,714 compared to 553,258 in 1975 reflecting a decline in stopover arrivals for the second consecutive year since 1964. Employment in the industry fell 12.3% below 1975 and estimated expenditure by tourists decreased by 17.7%.Following the 1976 General Elections the JTB was placed under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a Minister of State responsible for Tourism. A decision was subsequently taken by the Ministry that all Government-related public relations activities overseas should be coordinated with “one agency serving the needs of Jamaica.” This was to be managed by a coordinating committee chaired by the Ambassador or High Commissioner in either the United States of America or the United Kingdom. The JTB was also enlisted to assist in coordinating public relations activities for a number of government agencies including: the Agency for Public Information (API), Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation, JNEC, Air Jamaica, Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), and the Port Authority. The JTB was reorganized “to be specifically a promotional body which would portray the exact image of Jamaica in terms of its goals, aims and aspirations, and its people.”The Board’s focus for 1976 /1977 was on “containing an invaluable loss of market to the minimum possible.” It mounted a “Welcome Back – Jamaica” campaign overseas to encourage visitors to return to Jamaica. The Friends of Jamaica Programme that was launched to the travel trade at the Annual General Assembly of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1975, was vigorously promoted throughout North America, as the Board also increased its efforts to attract the meetings and conventions market. The arrival in Jamaica of Jack and Susan Ford, children of then American President Gerald Ford as well as Jacqueline Onassis, offered added publicity for Jamaica.In 1976 the JTB “initiated its first concerted effort to attract the US black market to come to Jamaica” with the placement of colour advertisements in noted black magazines. In September of that same year the Board also attended the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) World Congress and mounted its “biggest overseas promotion to date.” The JTB won the coveted Presidential Citation and at their invitation ASTA Chapter Presidents subsequently held their annual meeting in Jamaica. At the same time the JTB’s UK office undertook a massive promotion with Proctor and Gamble for the company’s annual winter product launch competition in which displays featuring Jamaica were mounted in all Woolworth and Woolco retail outlets.In 1977 a task force was convened to “research, review and consider ideas for the improvement of the product and for quality control, as well as to make recommendations.” The JTB was to undergo further restructuring “to create a more integrated industry” and under the new structure its mandate was to promote “the vacation image of Jamaica”.Four overseas offices including Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia were closed and the opening of the Los Angeles office was postponed. The London office was scaled down to a “one man operation and the Domestic Marketing programme was transferred to TPDCO. Vacation Sales became the responsibility of Martins Jamaica and the Planning, Research and Statistics Department was moved to the Planning Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Montego Bay office was set to become the “nucleus of a whole new section to deal specifically with conventions.”Special crime prevention measures were implemented in the resort areas.Setting itself a target of 377,000 visitors in 1977 the JTB’s primary message to the travel trade was “Jamaica is Good News,” and Air Jamaica, the island’s national airline was made an integral part of the programme. The JTB in collaboration with the JHTA launched the “Boonoonoonoos Jamaica” package offering competitive prices for those who vacationed in Jamaica. An all year round programme of golf was developed on the island and the old Reservation System “ceased to be operated by the Board at the end of August 1977, and Central Reservation Service based in Miami came into operation on January 1, 1978.”To increase airlift into the island, the JTB focused on “developing back-to-back charters from major North Eastern markets” in the United States of America. By August 1977, there was an upturn in the industry and at the end of the year, Jamaica had welcomed 386,514 visitors, surpassing its target of 377,000, with estimated tourism earnings for the island at US$ 108,419,000.In the fall of 1977 the JTB hired the New York public relations firm Peter Martin Associates, Inc. to replace Sontheimer & Company, Inc. and in March 1978 the advertising agency Doyle, Dane and Bernbach was succeeded by Marsteller, Inc. whose contract became effective on April 1, 1978. Later the contract with Marsteller, Inc. was terminated when it was “discovered that a South African national was put in charge of handling the Jamaican account.” In May 1978 Hoffman Mann, Inc. was appointed “vice” Marsteller, Inc. to handle Jamaica’s advertising.The baton of leadership of the JTB was passed to Desmond Ben Henry who was appointed Director of Tourism effective March 1, 1978 at the resignation of Adrian Robinson. In the period which followed emphasis was placed on promoting Jamaica as an all-year-round, unique and diverse destination highlighting each resort area. The Board’s marketing campaign created by Hoffman Mann, Inc. using the slogan, “Jamaica-We’re More than a Beach, We’re a Country” captured the essence of the message and continues to resonate many years later.A Los Angeles based District Manager was appointed in April 1978 although the JTB had to cease operations in three of its four prime markets in North America “remaining only in New York”. London became the headquarters for the JTB’s European operations on April 1, 1978 and the JTB contracted the services of the public relations consulting firm P.R Funktion AB for Scandanavia “an area of Great potential.” The Board also continued its thrust into the “black” market by promoting the island in black oriented media and the “Miss Black America” pageant was held in Jamaica in 1980. The upturn in the industry continued into 1978 as the JTB intensified its efforts to regain the ground that it had lost. Its public relations campaign focused on showing Jamaica at an exciting stage of development to counter the image associated with crime and violence. “Taste of Jamaica” parties showcasing the positive aspects of the island were staged and the “Jamaica – We’re Warmer” winter campaign of 1978/1979 encouraged visitors to escape the cold weather of the north. The new Jamaican summer music extravaganza “Reggae Sunsplash” also received extensive promotion in North America.In December 1978 the Time Sharing” concept was introduced to Jamaica through the American based firm “Interval International.” Participating hotels included Rose Hall Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, Ocho Rios Intercontinental and Mallards Beach. As a result of the JTB’s efforts visitor arrivals in 1978 totalled 532,864 an increase of 37.9% over 1977 with earnings of US$148,200,000.
Further changes in the operations of the JTB were also implemented in 1979. The office of General Manager for North America was moved from New York to Miami and a new General Manager appointed. The decision was also taken to establish a Cruise Shipping Division within the JTB.The JTB’s efforts were rewarded when in October 1979 the organization was placed among the top five tourist boards in New York City according to a “New York Times” survey, a position which it also held in a January 1980 “Voice” survey. By the end of 1979 visitor arrivals had reached 593,571 surpassing the peak figure of 553,258 which it had reached in 1975. Estimated earnings from tourism was US$194,300,000.The increase in arrivals was reversed in 1980 largely due to the General Elections in October which were accompanied by an upturn in crime and violence. Air Jamaica also ceased operating charters out of the European market on October 31, 1980. Tourist arrivals showed an 8.5% decline with figures at 543,088 although earnings reflected an increase of 24% at US$241,700,000.The change of government following the elections also brought changes to the JTB in the form of a new staff structure led by the new Director of Tourism and Chairman of the Board, John Gentles. The Board now came under a Ministry of Tourism with former Director, the Hon. Eric. A. Abrahams as Minister.The aim of the new government was to “maximize revenue earnings from the tourism sector and to provide conditions which would facilitate the growth of the industry and the country.” A recovery period of 18 months was set for the industry. In 1981 the merging of TPDCO with the JTB which was started the previous year was completed. A Product Department was subsequently formed within the JTB and its Central Accounting System was also relocated from Miami to Jamaica for the start of the 1982/1983 financial year.Young & Rubicam was appointed the JTB’s advertising agency and the theme of the Board’s new marketing campaign was “Come Back to Jamaica.” The campaign was conducted at various levels. The ratification of a tax treaty between the American Government and the Government of Jamaica in December 1980 facilitated tax deductions for American firms and associations which held meetings and conventions in Jamaica. Some 372 groups with over 30,000 persons visited Jamaica through the efforts of the JTB’s Groups and Conventions Department. A US/Jamaica Business Committee was formed as this was considered a marketing opportunity for the JTB. There was a concentrated marketing effort on the West Coast targeting students and “Black Ethnic” markets. A special “Rest and Relaxation” programme was aimed at travel agents and by 1981 television was used as the prime medium for advertising Jamaica as it provided “more coverage and impact.” By the end of the year (1981) 551,878 visitors come to Jamaica, an increase of 1.6% over 1980 with earnings of US$284,300,000.
The increase in arrivals continued in 1982 another record year for tourism with total arrivals at 670,202, the highest number of arrivals ever recorded in Jamaica in any one year up to that time. There were some 80,168 arrivals from Canada making 1982 the best year ever for Canada and cruise passenger arrivals increased by 39.2% to 194,430 making that the highest number of passengers ever recorded at that time. Estimated earnings totaled US$337,800,000 an increase of 19% over 1981.During 1982 the JTB reorganized its overseas departments returning its head office to New York after being in Miami for three years and a new office was opened in Montreal, Canada under the supervision of a District Manager. The Groups and Conventions Department was re-structured and Managers appointed in Miami, the Midwest and Los Angeles to solicit business. The Board also entered into a sales and consulting agreement with “International Meetings and Marketing Incorporated”, (IMMI) to secure business for Jamaica.The JTB appointed the “Travel Representatives Abroad Corporation” (TRAC) as marketing and promotional representatives in Central and South America and established the Jamaica Tourism News Bureau in New York.
At home, following negotiations, the Reynolds Mines in Ocho Rios agreed to make their pier available to “supplement berthing capacity for cruise ships.” A “comprehensive” training programme was started by the Ministry of Tourism and the JTB to familiarize participants on aspects of Jamaica to improve service. The JTB Courtesy Unit was expanded to alleviate the harassment of visitors with patrols on beaches, streets, craft markets and shopping areas visited by tourists.In 1983, the local advertising and public relations firm, NCM succeeded Grimax Advertising Limited and developed a campaign exhorting Jamaicans to “Be Proud of Jamaica”. “Focus on Tourism” a half hour radio programme produced locally by Joan Williams & Associates Limited was aired on JBC radio. A new welcoming programme was initiated at the Sangster International Airport and 12 “welcome hostesses” appointed. “Jamaica Welcome” brochures were produced and given to every visitor to the island and special events were created to fill the vacuum of the slow periods.The “Sports Illustrated” annual bathing suit edition reputed to reach an estimated audience of over 8,000,000 was shot entirely in Jamaica and according to the magazine’s editors the issue was “the most successful, comprehensive and discussed bathing suit issue in its 24 year history.”
The JTB ended 1983 as winner of the UK “Travel Awards Advertising Award” and with visitor arrival figures at 782,943 a 16% increase over the previous year. Cruise passenger arrivals also increased by 8% to 210,153 and earnings were at US$339,200,000.