Make it authentic. Make it Jamaica.
(Photo above: Dropping by to chat with Canadian Travel Press recently, from l to r, are Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett; the JTB’s regional director Canada, Philip Rose; the Jamaica Tourist Board’s director of tourism, Donovan White.)
(In the first part of a two-part series, Jamaica’s director of tourism, Donovan White sits down with Canadian Travel Press to talk about how the popular Caribbean destination plans to play its role in the “finely tuned wheel of global travel and tourism.”)
Ask Donovan White what his brief is, and he’ll tell you that it’s “to take what is a fantastic product and make it even more fantastic.” The Jamaica Tourist Board’s (JTB) director of tourism was in Toronto along with the island’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, and the JTB’s regional director Canada, Philip Rose, talking to the Canadian travel trade about not only what Jamaica will have on offer during the upcoming winter 2018-2019 season, but also how the destination is adapting to a changing tourism marketplace.
White, who has been in the director of tourism job about seven months now, explained that his job is about “how we continue to evolve our destination in the age of transition, in the digital age … working with a much more intelligent and tech savvy marketplace and traveller, and ensuring that Jamaica plays its role in that finely tuned wheel of global tourism and global travel.”
So what’s the plan?
To do that, White told CTP: “The plan is a well-thought-out vision of Minister [Edmund] Bartlett, who sees Jamaica as having an opportunity to grow exponentially, and, by doing that, we have some key markers by which we measure our performance.”
Three of those markers, he said would be “for us to deliver 5 million visitors to the destination and $5 billion of revenues in a 5-year period.”
“Those [markers] are key,” he continued, “because they immediately set your bar, in terms of what you have to do within a specific time frame, but it also sets the parameters in terms of how you engage your partners and what you need from your partners in order to perform.”
In order to do this, White said: “We’ve also had to do some introspection of the destination to ensure that we are providing, first and foremost, destination assurance. That visitors to Jamaica – whether new or returning visitors – have the confidence that they are coming to a destination that is safe, secure and seamless to enter and leave at all times.”
Along with that, Jamaica’s director of tourism told CTP that: “We have to continue to engage our destination partners to evolve and deepen the attractions and the things to do for visitors because, as you well know, Jamaica enjoys a 42% return [repeat] rate of visitors, and so what we want to be able to do as visitors come back to the destination [is to make sure] that they have the opportunity to enjoy something different, something new, something that they haven’t tried before or seen before or thought they could experience in Jamaica before.”
And he continued: “I think we are very ‘thought forward’ in terms of understanding that we have to play in a much bigger marketplace than even our legacy markets of inbound passengers from Canada, the US, the UK and other parts of Europe. And, while those [markets] remain a focus for us – because [they are] the bedrock of our business – we also have to continue to see new opportunities from further afield in markets of the Far East – like Indonesia – and maybe even as far as the South Pacific.”
The result, White said is: “We’re open to continuing to evolve the destination, so that we can continue to attract new and different travellers to Jamaica and continue to make Jamaica the number one warm weather destination in the world – certainly in the Caribbean – and, indeed, in the world.”
Where does Canada fit?
As for where Canada fits in the plan, White make it clear that “Canada is an extremely important market to our business. First of all, the Canadian traveller is a diverse traveller, one who is very much looking for – continually looking for – opportunities in the winter tourism season as you [Canada] have pretty bad winter seasons. They’re [Canadians] always looking for opportunities to get out and enjoy themselves in warmer climates.”
And he made it clear that: “Canada, for us, is a significant part of our puzzle, and last year, we delivered almost 400,000 visitors from Canada out of 2.5 million overall stopover visitors. So, from that perspective, you begin to understand what that market [Canada] means for us, and we’re hoping that with some of the new experiences that we’ve created we’ll be able to grow this market, in terms of visitor arrivals, closer to the half million (500,000 mark) and beyond over the course of the next two winter seasons.”
In working to achieve that goal, the trade here in Canada can expect to see some changes in the way that Jamaica comes to market.
White told CTP: “Overall, our marketing strategy will take on some changes, again, as part of the evolution of the destination. We’re going to be focused on the digital media for the most part, and while we won’t throw away, for sure, our traditional partners because, again, they provide a significant penetration into the market, but we believe that there’s an opportunity to engage travellers or would-be travellers digitally that probably and ordinarily we may not be able to reach.”
As an example, he pointed to a digital campaign launched earlier in 2018 called “Join Me In Jamaica,” explaining that: “the significant impact of that or the significant outcome we wanted from that was to engage the market with Jamaicans at home that have experiences or provide products and services in the tourism business that ordinarily don’t get promoted because we want visitors to know that when you come to Jamaica, it’s okay to have some of the experiences for which we believe you travel.”
White also observed that: “People today travel the world to experience different things and Canadians are no different. They want to experience our food. They want to experience our entertainment and our culture. They want to meet the people in Jamaica.”
And he continued: “The Minister says this all the time, and I believe it – our number one asset is our people, and the reason why the people are so important to us is that they provide the warmth of the destination.”
Driving the experience
From that perspective, White said: “Our marketing is going to be focused on how do we drive the experiences within the destination. We want to take some of the attraction away from the periphery of the destination and [move it] into the destination.”
White also told CTP that Jamaica will be changing its global marketing agency “because we believe we want to engage some more of what makes us unique and so a lot of what you will see coming out of campaigns like ‘Join Me In Jamaica’ and future campaigns is a direct connect of the destination and the people; projecting Jamaica in a way that makes it super attractive and authentic.”
As for who that new agency will be, White explained that: “We are still in the process of contracting the new agency. We have gone through the RFP process, but I would prefer not to name them at this point because we are still in the negotiation stage; but rest assured, it will be a very well-connected, very creative agency that works deep into the industry.”
Next Week: Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett sits down with CTP to talk about some of the big disruptors in the world today, how they impact on tourism and how the industry can combat some of those impacts.
The big question, well sort of …
What’s the one thing that Canadian agents and the Canadian trade need to know about Jamaica that will allow them to sell it more efficiently and more successfully, CTP asked Jamaica’s minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, and its director of tourism, Donovan White, when they dropped by in early September.
Said Bartlett: “Well, I think that what we need them to know is that Jamaica is safe, secure and seamless, and we offer a multiple experience that responds to the needs of all demographics. And to quote the director’s earlier comment that: “Jamaica is the finest warm weather destination in the world.”
As for White, he observed: “The only thing I think I would add to that is that the commitment that we have gotten from our airline partners to fly passengers to Jamaica is overwhelming. We have expanded commitments from all the major carriers connecting passengers from all across Canada. So, what they’ve done is made it easier and more seamless to get to Jamaica almost any day of the week.”