Tourism officials in Jamaica are leaving nothing to chance as they go all out to continue global marketing and outreach efforts to woo discerning travellers to that destination.
Already seeing a slow return of buoyancy to the tourism sector, the Caribbean destination only welcomed over 200 000 visitors between June and September.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said the COVID-19 pandemic should be viewed as a transformative opportunity.
“This new normal will be how we choose to define it. It will require proactive measures to make it safe and viable,” he said in a pre-recorded video message at the opening of the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) 2020 on Monday.
This year, the two-day event which usually attracts hundreds of stakeholders from around the world, was held virtually for the first time, though still offering a variety of interactive booths, discussions and informative sessions, as officials continue to sell the “land of wood and water” to the rest of the world.
Last year, the destination welcomed some 4.3 million stay-over visitors and raked in an estimated US$3.7 billion or about 9.5 per cent of the island’s gross domestic product. The sector is said to directly provide an estimated 170 000 jobs.Like other regional destinations, Jamaica did not escape the dramatic drop in visitor arrivals when travel halted following the discovery of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of the year.
However, since it reopened around June 15, following the implementation of several health and safety measures, preliminary figures show that between that time and the end of September the country earned about US$131 million, and hotel occupancy had steadily increased.
Officials say they were hopeful for a 40 per cent increase in arrivals over the winter season, which officially runs from December 15 to April 15.
Bartlett said tourism officials were aware that post-COVID-19 travelling would not be the same, adding that destinations will need to continue to reassure travellers that their health and safety will be top priority when they visit.
The destination is ramping up its engagement of vloggers and bloggers, especially from Asia and India, to help promote the country and get more visitors from those areas.
During a question-and-answer session, Bartlett said while he expected some face-to-face hosting of events to take place in Jamaica in coming months, based on venue, he was confident that the technology and will of officials would allow the destination to continue to offer a range of its annual major events to the world on a virtual platform.
He said coming out of the lockdown, it was clear that “we need each other and that we cannot succeed without each other”.
“The second takeaway is that technology has become a huge player in human activity . . . and we have to think about what is the future, where are we going. It invites us to innovate and think out of the box, to pivot and adapt,” the Tourism Minister added.
He said Jamaica has been repositioning itself as “a pristine destination” that was “far more inclusive” and focused heavily on the island’s cultural assets.
“We are not going to be focusing on what is competitive but what is comparative – that is, how does Jamaica do it better than everybody else,” he said, adding that the country would be collaborating more with airlines in an effort to ensure long-haul trips and multi-destination travel.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not put a damper on the usually hype JAPEX trade show, as tourism officials ensured that a flood of information relating to the destination was made available to its industry partners from around the globe.
Visitors to the virtual event had the opportunity to learn more about all the island had to offer, which included business travel, destination wedding, entertainment and sports tourism, community tourism, luxury market, gastronomy, and family travel.
They were also able to virtually visit the five locations across the island – Negril, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios/Port Antonio, Kingston and the south coast – learning what was on offer in each area.
More than 2 000 media representatives, travel agents, buyers and suppliers, registered for the event, which usually attracts about 800.
People from a range of international and regional markets participated in the event, including from Russia, China, Spain, Colombia, India, Argentina and Brazil.