Donnie Dawson On The Value Of Travel Advisors

There’s no doubt that after four decades working the Jamaican tourism industry, Donnie Dawson understands the value of travel advisors and their role in the future growth of the sector.

In fact, the retiring Deputy Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) stresses the importance of maintaining strong relationships with the network of travel agents.

As Dawson sees it, travel sellers are still the primary drivers of the island’s tourism industry and he dismissed the idea that online travel agencies (OTA) would eliminate the need for traditional advisors, and observed that they remain active, essential partners in the tourism industry.

Said Dawson: “Let nobody fool you, I’ve heard it again and again for 40 years: ‘Oh, the retailers are going to go out of business with the OTAs.’ They’re still here, man,” noting that even Expedia has a program for travel agents.

Dawson highlighted the success of the 12-year-old Jamaica Travel Specialist program, an online training course for travel agents that has grown beyond expectations. With tens of thousands of graduates in the program, the JTB strategically leverages this core database to sell Jamaica.

Dawson said: “I have convinced people that the retail trade is still here to stay. They’re not going anywhere … and that, to me, is probably one of my crowning achievements that I would reflect on,” pointing out that the travel specialist program is available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Recently he had a chance to reflect on his professional journey and the significant changes he has seen during the past 40 years, including successful efforts to increase air connectivity to Jamaica.

Affectionately known by his colleagues as ‘Mr. Airlift,’ Dawson has also witnessed the growth of the island’s accommodations footprint with the tripling of rooms across the destination to more than 30,000, driven by the all-inclusive segment.

Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, observed: “Jamaica is deeply indebted to Donnie Dawson for his decades of service to develop and promote tourism to the island.”

Bartlett continued: “He has been a steadfast ambassador throughout the years, dedicated to helping Jamaica become one of the world’s leading tourism destinations. We are truly grateful to him for everything he has accomplished and wish him a very happy retirement.”

As he retires, Dawson plans to work on his golf game and spend time with his grandchildren. He leaves behind a legacy of dedication and passion for Caribbean tourism, and his contributions will be valued for years to come.

In the photo

Seen here, from l to r, are Jamaica Director of Tourism Donovan White; Joy Jibrilu, CEO of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board; Faye Gill, Director of Membership of the Caribbean Tourism Organization; Rosa Harris, Director of Tourism, Cayman Islands; and Donnie Dawson, Deputy Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board in Chicago last week at Routes Americas