In assuming the challenging office of Director of Tourism, Robert Stephens came to the Jamaica Tourist Board with optimism, the drive to achieve and the belief that under his direction the organization could make considerable strides in developing the industry. He brought to the post considerable experience in marketing, management and an understanding of the power of information and technology and the difference that all of these combined, could make to the development of tourism in Jamaica.
The closure of Eastern Air Lines and Pan American Airways, the Persian Gulf War, increased competition and the United States Travel Advisory issued on Jamaica in 1991, were just some of the obstacles that the Robert Stephens administration had to overcome.
Never one to sit on the sidelines, however, he motivated his staff and took action, by launching an aggressive product improvement and marketing campaign, in an attempt to breathe new life into a besieged industry.
Conscious of the power of the media, he sought to convert obstacles into opportunities and mounted a focused advertising campaign, to take advantage of a growing global television audience. He not only marketed the product in major traditional hubs such as North America and Europe, but boldly ventured into Latin America as well as Japan, a country already captivated by Jamaica’s music.
Robert Stephens understood the importance of the human element in the marketing mix and used familiarization tours, press trips and trade shows to break down the barriers of distance, culture and negative perceptions. These efforts were rewarded with a 60 per cent increase in air seats from Europe, growing interest in the island from Japan and Latin America, and an overall increase in arrivals for 1991 over 1990, Jamaica’s best year up to that time.
He will long be remembered for his emphasis on community involvement and his attempt to motivate people at all levels of society, to support the industry under the banner of the “Tourism Coalition”. Despite the turbulence of the industry both locally and internationally, when he demitted office in 1992, Jamaica was firmly established on a growth path. The Jamaica Tourist Board honours Robert Stephens for the zeal and application which he brought to his office and his invaluable service to the industry.
A tourism specialist consultant for the HEART NTA, Robert Stephens boasts over 30 years in senior man¬agement and consulting in Jamaica, Jordan, Ghana, Nigeria and the Caribbean. He is the conceptualizer of the Port Royal Heritage Tourism Development Project; a council member of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and a director of the Kingston City Centre Improvement Company.
In the Gleaner article entitled ‘Robert Stephens is… Boss of the Year’, dated Wednesday, April 13, 2005, pages 10 & 11, ROBERT ‘Bobby’ Stephens copped prizes valued at over $250,000 and the coveted 2005-2006 All-Island Boss of the Year Award.