For the Jamaica Tourist Board, 2008 ushered in another change in governance. With a new Minister of Tourism appointed after the General Elections of 2007, a new Board was formed in November 2008. Director of Tourism Basil Smith’s tenure ended on October 31, 2008 and John Lynch assumed the twin portfolios of Chairman of the Board effective November 24, 2008 for three years and Director of Tourism with effect from December 1, 2008 for two years.The period came with its own challenges including the fact that it was an election year in the United States of America, an activity which has traditionally resulted in decreased arrivals from that market. The industry was also confronted with rising fuel cost, increasing crime levels in Jamaica, hurricanes within the region and a persistently sluggish global economy.Jamaica’s response was to explore and build other markets to lessen the dependency on the USA; strengthen its sales, public relations and marketing effort through an integrated communications programme; increase airlift to the island, while improving the physical plant; and heighten awareness locally about the importance of tourism to the economy.This strategy was enhanced by the stellar performance of Jamaica’s Olympians in Beijing, China in the summer of 2008, which helped to increase international awareness about the island.Emphasis was placed on wooing visitors from the Russian, Latin American, Indian, Chinese and other non-traditional markets, even as efforts were redoubled to strengthen existing markets. Russian tour operators attended the annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) trade show for the first time and work continued in China through the China Business Network.
As the lead agency responsible for marketing Jamaica as a cruise destination in collaboration with the Cruise Shipping Division of the Port Authority of Jamaica; the JTB established the Cruise, Events and Attractions Department in May 2008 to develop marketing strategies for attractions and for product quality assessment. In conjunction with the Board of Directors Events Cub-committee, this department was also charged to re-define, streamline and manage “the process by which events were reviewed and given support by the JTB.”There was positive growth in the Canadian, United Kingdom, Caribbean and Latin American markets for 2008 and all regions in the US market recorded an increase in arrivals, despite the fact that there was a slowdown in the US economy which only grew by 1.5% in 2008 compared to 2.0% in 2007.The JTB also provided support to the small hotels sector through a major local advertising and promotions programme, to channel business to these establishments. The properties were also featured on visitjamaica.com, the JTB’s official website.There was improvement in airlifts to the island with a number of airlines announcing their intent to increase traffic to Jamaica in 2009/2010. The cruise lines also announced plans to add 14 additional “feature rich” ships in 2009.To keep abreast of new media and the increasing role of the Internet in the marketing mix, the JTB once again redesigned and upgraded its website and visitjamaica.com was re-launched on September 3, 2008. In addition to plans for the “increased use of promotions and advertising online, the Board also continued to explore marketing and promotional opportunities via social media.” The JTB also increased the capacity of its Library, located at its headquarters in Kingston, transforming it into one of the “leading special libraries in Jamaica and the Caribbean.”Stopover arrivals for 2008/2009 showed an increase of 3.9% at 1,767,271. Cruise Passenger arrivals, although exceeding the one million mark at 1,092,263, decreased by 7.4%. Average hotel room occupancy rate for the period was 60.4% with estimated gross visitor expenditure at US$ 1.976 million, an increase of 3.5% over the previous year.Jamaica’s tourism sector continued to produce positive results in 2009/2010 despite ongoing changes and uncertainties both internationally, regionally and locally and the global economic downturn resulting in expected contractions in Europe, Japan and other markets.
In 2009, Jamaica was part of a Caribbean team working towards securing a review of the UK’s “Air Passenger Duty;” a tax which proposed “to charge travelers more for coming to the Caribbean than … for going to Hawaii.” If implemented, this would have serious implications for travel to the region.During the year, Jamaica also had to carefully manage issues of health and safety with the outbreak of Influenza A (HINI) virus near to the region and an attempted hijacking at the Sangster International airport in Montego Bay on April 19.A number of initiatives, including public relations, sales and promotional tactics were employed by the JTB and its tourism partners to enhance Jamaica’s reputation and strengthen its position in the marketplace. Work continued with Jamaica Vacations (JAMVAC) to secure air seats for the island and importantly, British Airways resumed flights to Montego Bay in October 2009, adding 25,000 seats out of Europe. There were also improvements in travel between Jamaica and Japan, as it became possible to fly from Narita Airport over Atlanta in the USA to Montego Bay on the same day.The Board increased Jamaica’s social media presence and accessibility by engaging audiences at: www.facebook.com/Jamaica; www.twitter.com/visitjamaicanow as well as on Youtube. Those interested in Jamaican cuisine could also indulge their interest at www.visitjamaica.com/jerk. There was also a move to replace ‘Travelocity’ with ‘Expedia’ as the preferred booking partner online for www.visitjamaica.com. The JTB also acquired ‘Radian 6’ an online monitoring tool to enable the Board to “trawl the internet for specific comments, themes and search criteria of interest to Jamaica and the JTB.”
Sports and sports personalities including track and field sensation Usain Bolt; and non-traditional sports personalities including skiing enthusiast Errol Kerr and dogsledder Newton Marshall, were engaged to promote the island. The participation of Jamaicans in the Winter Olympics also opened opportunities for greater audience reach for Jamaica. Mr. Bolt was featured in the new “Stop,” “Speed,” and “Pose” television commercial commissioned by the JTB and which highlighted the now famous “Bolt Pose” which gained popularity at the Olympics in Beijing. The IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany in August 2009 also saw the JTB partnering with sports giants PUMA and tour operator TVI to showcase the island as the athletes again represented Jamaica with distinction.Jamaica continued its vigorous campaign to tap into non-traditional markets and its effort in China reaped the Gold Award for Service Quality at the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market. With the extension of Draft FCB’s advertising contract for an additional two years from May 2009-April 2011, there was increased focus on marketing and advertising in the USA, Canada and the UK to drive business to Jamaica.Public Relations Agency Ruder Finn’s contract for the Americas was extended to January 31, 2011 and they continued the Next Generation Genius of Jamaica campaign through major broadcast initiatives, event and industry support, the dissemination of industry related information to the media, the organization of press trips and other promotional activities. The firm McCluskey International Limited continued to lead the public relations charge for Jamaica in the UK, Ireland and Northern Europe.The combined efforts were to prove beneficial as despite recession taking hold in Europe and decline in the UK, Latin America and Caribbean markets, Jamaica ended the year with a 3.6% increase in total stopover arrivals for 1,831,097. There was, however, a 15.6% decline in cruise passenger arrivals which saw the numbers slipping again below the million mark at 922,349 for 2009. Estimated gross foreign exchange earnings also registered a 2.6% decline at US1.925 million compared to the previous year.The year 2010/2011 was particularly challenging for the international tourism and travel industry.
As the era of global recession became entrenched, the JTB employed extra creativity and implemented aggressive strategies to maintain market share.Greater emphasis was placed on the use of digital media including social media, webinars, e-letters and e-blitzes and there was an increase in the number of familiarization trips, sales calls, seminars and travel and trade expositions.In the USA, the first ever Jamaica Blogger “Meet Up” to secure “bloggers who cover travel, entertainment, lifestyle and technology” with an audience reach of some 18 million, was organized. In March and June of 2010 the “Totally Dad Dancing” campaign which encouraged children to upload videos of their fathers dancing on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to win a family holiday in Jamaica, was implemented in the UK.
‘Jamaica Travel Jamboree’ an annual event to increase visibility for the island was launched and Jamaica also ensured that it was present in the marketplace through trade and consumer shows such as Caribbean Week (Canada); World Travel Market (UK) and ITB Berlin (Germany). In the USA, the JTB also partnered with Facebook to mount a three-week national Father’s Day promotion.The JTB spearheaded the world’s first 3D destination video which premiered at the World Travel Market in London accompanied by “events targeting the Jamaican Diaspora, UK consumer media, and the Irish consumer media.” Promotions on Facebook and Twitter facilitated global reach.Among the public relations activities implemented to enhance Jamaica’s presence in the marketplace were promotions staged by Ruder Finn around the Royal Wedding programme in April 2011 on the BBC. An invitation was also extended to the Archbishop of York to tour Jamaica in January 2012 as part of the Diaspora outreach. In addition to its ongoing effort to project Jamaica as the “destination of choice,” advertising agency Draft FCB also mounted a multi-media campaign during the summer of 2010 to safeguard Jamaica’s image following “civil unrest” in Kingston.
As the push to make inroads into non-traditional markets continued, the JTB’s Latin American team and hoteliers completed their first sales mission to Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. There was also increased emphasis in Japan, China and India. In 2010 the JTB hosted the first bloggers familiarization tour of Jamaica. Twenty bloggers from the USA and Canadian markets visited the island in May. In August, “Mommy bloggers” also came to the island to experience the product from a family perspective. Additional blogger trips focused on other areas such as the wedding and honeymoon and cuisine markets also visited the island.One highpoint of 2010 was the opening of the $220 million historic Falmouth Cruise Port which “gave Jamaica a sharp new edge” in the marketplace. The Port, a joint venture between the Port Authority of Jamaica and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, is the only one its kind on the island which is capable of accommodating the new Genesis Class mega liners. The first of these, the Royal Caribbean ‘Oasis of the Seas,’ made its inaugural call in March 2011. The opening of the Montego Bay Convention Centre was also expected to give Jamaica a more competitive edge in the groups and incentives market.The year ended with a 4.9% increase in total stopover arrivals for 1,921,678 but a 1.4% decrease in cruise passenger arrivals at 909,619. However, estimated gross foreign exchange earnings showed a 3.9% increase with US$2.001 billion over the US$1.9 billion earned in 2009. While 2011 would also be another challenging year for Jamaica with a contraction in both the USA and the UK/European markets due to economic decline, by year’s end the industry would see growth with an 8.7% increase in total arrivals when compared to 2010, setting an all time record with 3.07 million visitors to the island. Stopover arrivals numbered 1,951,752 for an increase of 1.6% while there was an impressive 23.7% jump in cruise passenger arrivals boosted by the opening of the new Falmouth Port, taking the number once again over the million mark to 1,125,481. Visitor expenditure was estimated at US$2.008 billion for a 0.4% increase over the amount earned in 2010. There was a 5.7% decrease in the number of persons directly employed to the accommodation sub-sector with 34,921 in 2011 compared to 37,018 in 2010.On December 29, 2011 Jamaicans again went to the polls and this resulted in a change of government. A new Board would be appointed in January 2012.The year saw additional airlifts with Jet Blue beginning operations out of Fort Lauderdale into the Norman Manley International Airport; American Airlines increasing frequency out of Miami into Norman Manley Airport during the summer months; and weekly operations scheduled by Sunwin Airlines to begin from Nashville, Tennessee and Cincinnati, Ohio. Copa Airlines would also schedule services from Panama into Sangster International Airport.To secure business for Jamaica, there were increased activities in all markets including participation in major trade and consumer shows, sales calls, seminars and promotions and the successful blending of both traditional and new methods of engaging both the trade and consumers. This was also a “big year for educating agents.” The visa restrictions for travellers to Jamaica from Panama, Venezuela and Colombia were lifted and the Jamaica Travel Specialist Programme was re-launched. Administered online, the training programme was developed “for travel agents to learn about Jamaica, how to sell Jamaica and be rewarded for increased bookings.”The new ‘Experience Jamaica’ programme “designed to encourage Jamaican residents and members of the Diplomatic Corps” to vacation in Jamaica was an attempt to stimulate business for the summer and fall.Through its “Nothing Changes” advertising campaign in the USA Draft FCB sought to reassure consumers that “the Jamaica they know and love has not changed. in the United Kingdom the staging of the London Olympics in 2012 was a major focus for Jamaica and once again promotional campaigns leading to the event were planned around super athlete Usain Bolt who was featured in advertising produced in collaboration with Virgin Atlantic.Public relations agencies Finn Partners and McCluskey International kept Jamaica visible with positive campaigns including initiatives around the visit of HRH Prince Harry to Jamaica in March 2012, a major boost to the destination’s image. With 2012 marking the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence
there were also a number of other activities including engaging popular international Reggae artiste “Shaggy” to encourage Jamaicans overseas to “come home to celebrate the 50th anniversary.”In 2011, Jamaica recorded growth in visitor arrivals from the Canadian market for the eighth consecutive year, which was attributed in part to the increased airlifts. There was also improvement in the Latin American market with encouraging numbers from Eastern Europe. Progress was evident in the Asian market as Jamaica welcomed 1,703 visitors from China, a 30.8% increase; 1,330 from India for an 18% increase and 2,027 from Japan for an increase of 3.9%.Over 1,350 rooms were added to the accommodation sub-sector for the period. This figure includes the 225 rooms of the re-opened Royal Decameron Caribbean ‐ formerly Breezes Super Fun Beach Resort & Spa, and Braco ‐ formerly Braco Beach Resort & Spa, with 232 rooms. The first phase of the Palmyra also opened in 2010.For the period 2008-2011 the JTB/ Jamaica received numerous awards and accolades for its work in tourism. Numbered among them were: World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination; World’s Leading Cruise Destination; Caribbean’s Leading Destination; Caribbean’s Leading Beach Destination: Negril, Jamaica; Caribbean’s Leading Sports Tourism Destination, Jamaica; Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Destination; Caribbean’s Leading Airport: Sangster International Airport, Jamaica; Caribbean’s Leading Meetings & Conference Centre: Montego Bay Convention Centre, Jamaica and the Caribbean’s Leading Tourist Board.