A newsletter from the Jamaica Tourist Board
to keep you up-to-speed on island happenings. November 2010
Linda Boyce

Once You See it, You’ll Sell it
By Mark Rogers

Jamaica’s marketing tagline is “Once you go, you’ll know.” With the success of their recent mega-fam, the island might consider a new tagline targeting travel agents: “Once you see it, you’ll sell it.”
The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) recently completed an unprecedented push to bring agents to Jamaica to assess the island first hand. For four weekends in September and October, they flew in 2,000 travel agents from the U.S. — 500 agents at a shot.

Donnie DawsonThe mega-fam initiative was born as a counter measure to the harmful media attention Jamaica received in May and June, when violence rocked Kingston. Even though the violence was contained in a very small section of the capital — which is hours away by car from the major resort areas on the north coast — the threat to Jamaica’s tourism was dire. As bad as the initial attention was, by the end of summer much of the negative perception of the island had evaporated. While showing Jamaica to be a safe destination was still an important part of the JTB’s initiative, the fam was re-tooled to also showcase the island’s new attractions and resorts.

During the fam, agents were whisked along major resort area on the island’s north shore, from Negril to Ocho Rios.  They experienced such attractions as Green Grotto Caves, Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove, and toured accommodations ranging from all-inclusives to exclusive villas.

 “We started the invitation process with our roadshow in July, in which we visited 24 cities in the U.S.,” says Donnie Dawson, Jamaica Tourist Board’s deputy director of sales. “This was followed by an email blast to 10,000 agents in our database, and then 30,000 were contacted through subsequent efforts. Minimum criteria for agents were an IATA number, CLIA or OSSN memberships.”

The mega-fam program was called “Wish You Were Here,” and the price tag for the fam was a very reasonable $99, especially since this included roundtrip airfare from a connecting flight to a major gateway and then on to Jamaica. The $99 fee also covered hotel accommodations, based on double occupancy, ground transfers and all meals and site inspections. A single occupancy rate was also available.


Earlier this spring, Jamaica was celebrating 2009 visitors arrivals figures showing 3.6 percent growth in a year when most islands were posting declines. The island was on track for an even better 2010, when the violence in Kingston slammed the brakes on unparalleled growth.John Lynch

“We had a year in Jamaica that’s been a little bit mixed, but I’ve always credited the travel agent with Jamaica’s success,” says John Lynch, Director of Tourism and Chairman, Jamaica Tourist Board. “Jamaica had a good year in 2009 and we came out in 2010 with double digits. Then we faltered a bit. We depend on travel agents and we followed up by sending them the right information. This program of bringing 2,000 plus agents here in September is also a thank you to agents to come and see what we have. And I’m sure they’ll agree that this destination stands tall in the Caribbean in terms of hotel product, in terms of roads, in terms of attractions.”

In addition to new resorts and attractions, Jamaica has two major projects under construction. The first of these is the $51.7 million Montego Bay Convention Centre, which is on track to open in January 2011 in time for the arrival of its first group, Caribbean Marketplace 2011. Equally impressive is the creation of the Historic Falmouth Cruise Port, which is overseen by Royal Caribbean International (RCI). The port will have a major impact on the island’s cruise tourism; RCI’s biggest ship, Oasis of the Seas, will call on the new harbor when it opens in January.

With all of these huge initiatives underway, agents are a vital part of the mix for Jamaica. According to the JTB, travel agents account for more than 60 percent of all bookings to Jamaica. With the loss of many non-stop Air Jamaica flights from the U.S., it was critical there be a strong counter message touting Jamaica’s strengths as a tourism destination.

“Coming onto the winter season, I would like to say the trap has been set,” says Lynch. “We have a lot of advertising planned, we’ve been working with our agents, everything is in place and we’re going to have a great winter season together.”

We invite travel agents to visit the Jamaica Tourist Board’s Twitter and Facebook pages to share their experiences about the recent mega-fam. Let us know what you think!

Travel agents interested in future Jamaica fams can call 800-526-2422.
This will put them on an email list to receive info about upcoming fams.

Jamaica Connection
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