Donovan White, the director of tourism, last Tuesday grabbed the undivided attention of some of the world’s most elite travel agents, bombarding them with hard facts and figures showing Jamaica as one of the hottest tourism destinations.
White, whose tenure so far has been crowned with success after success, was spending time with elite members of Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s Chairman’s Royal Club who were being celebrated by Sandals on National Travel Advisor Day at the Sandals Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios, St Ann.
“Travellers from around the globe have come to recognise that Jamaica offers an unsurpassed vacation experience from the food, beaches, hotels and of course Reggae, an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. It is a very exciting and critical time for us as a destination,” White said. “We are experiencing record-breaking numbers, receiving global recognition and undergoing major developments.
“As a destination, we know we are only as successful as our partners. So, today, I want to share where we are and where we are heading to help you provide your clients with an unmatched holiday experience here in Jamaica.
We kicked off 2019 with record-breaking numbers:
• Jamaica was the first Caribbean destination to welcome over one million visitors (approximately 1.3 million) through December 2018 to the end of March 2019), generating just under US$950 million in revenue for Jamaica’s tourism sector.
• Jamaica also received a number of notable industry awards, most recently as the Best Destination in the Caribbean and among the 14 Best Destinations in the World by 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards; Jamaica captured four gold awards at the Travvy Awards — Best Tourism Board, Best Culinary Destination, Best Wedding Destination and Best Honeymoon Destination
• Most recently during last month’s ITB Berlin, the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA) selected Jamaica as Destination of the Year.
• Sangster International Airport (SIA) in Montego Bay, is transforming Jamaica with the expansion of the departure terminal and commercial area under a new strategic plan.
• The airport is expanding infrastructure improvements that leverage the latest technology and overall experience for passengers.
• The design theme is being developed to reflect the country’s natural beauty.
• MBJ is adding 25,800 square feet to the departure terminal to improve service for passengers.
• The commercial area will be developed with a renewed focus on Jamaican specialty products and original handicrafts
• Jamaica is set to welcome increased travellers this summer, securing over 1.4 million air seats this season, an increase of nearly 110, 000 or 8.4 per cent over last summer.
• Jamaica’s primary source market, the United States, has seen the biggest growth, having secured over 100,000 additional seats for the summer period between May and August 2019. This is strong evidence of the confidence US airline partners have placed in Jamaica:
• The north-east region has seen the most significant increase, accounting for more than half of the seats secured.
• From New York-JFK, JetBlue Airways has added more capacity and increased frequency to Kingston and Montego Bay and Delta has added daily service to Kingston.
• United Airlines has increased frequency to Montego Bay from Baltimore, and Southwest has increased frequency to Montego Bay.
• Sun Country Airlines will begin new service from Dallas to Montego Bay starting May 24. This service will operate through to August 19, 2019.
• Europe has grown its overall seat capacity from this region by over 9,000 seats or 5.5 per cent compared to last year. This is due primarily to the addition of new service from Manchester, larger equipment from British Airways out of Gatwick and TUI out of Manchester. TUI has also doubled their seat capacity from Belgium and Holland with longer rotations.
• In the Caribbean, new direct service from Barbados twice weekly on Caribbean Airlines largely accounts for the six per cent increase this summer.
As we know, events help to sell destinations. They attract visitors and provide unique selling proposition and positioning while supporting communities.
In 2019, Jamaica offers several exciting cultural events that will draw visitors from around the globe to experience the true heart of Jamaica.
Coming up this year, we have:
• Reggae Sumfest (July 14-21), which is Jamaica’s premier summer festival highlighting the destination’s best music talents.
“At the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), we KNOW the value of events in marketing the destination, as they continue to be one of the main elements in our marketing strategy. In fact, so many of our visitors travel to Jamaica specifically to attend some of these events.In knowing all of this, the tourism ministry has launched the TOP EVENTS website, a designated platform that is optimised for engagement, showing visitors and locals the many reasons to enjoy the offerings of the destination.”
“It is a medium for partners to interact with visitors in a stimulating and exciting way. TOP EVENTS will employ the use of technology to reach target markets and the app will enhance customer experience.
“At the JTB, we are leveraging the current digital transformation to market the destination. As a destination, we strive to ensure that our guests have a seamless experience throughout their journey — from the dream phase to the travel phase. With this new platform, we can enhance visitors’ experiences and continue this journey while guests are on-island.
“We are always energised and fired up to share abroad the gem that is Jamaica, because we live it, because we love it and because we believe in it. And we hope you all do too. I wish to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to you for helping Jamaica achieve another record-breaking year so far.
“We wish to thank you individually and collectively for your unwavering commitment in selling our destination and ensuring Jamaica remains top of mind for potential travellers looking for a place to vacation. We would like to encourage you to keep up the great work in helping us fill those seats I mentioned earlier, as we build on our past success.
“We are excited to welcome your clients at our beloved destination and we look forward to our continued success together. Again, thanks to you, our committed travel specialists, for your tireless efforts which have ensured that we continue to achieve our collective 2019 goals.”
The tourism director also had high praise for Sandals, noting: “We see Sandals Resorts International as a significant contributor to Jamaica’s hospitality industry and by extension the Jamaican economy. The company’s cutting-edge vision is always an inspiring model for keeping up in an ever-changing industry.
Part of the cutting-edge vision is the value placed on the travel agent relationship. This event today is only one example of how building on that relationship can help us as a destination to sustain unprecedented growth.”