As the Jamaica Tourist Board led by the it’s super-charged Leader (possibly the most optimistic and hardworking man alive) Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, embarks on its campaign to win back hearts and minds, post recent events of mayhem and chaos on the Island, a round table with key Media partners (or as designated herewith…family) in the Diaspora was among the first order of business.
On Thursday June 10, 2010, those of us invited gathered around the table and listened. The message was clear, the Diaspora media is important to the newly minted public relations effort. We were charged to disseminate information in clear and unambiguous terms about where we now are and where we are going; that it was critical to the integrity of the brand—Jamaica (that is), to communicate a positive message.
As we go about our business we meet people, we interact, and we deliberately or unwittingly confer on them the deep desire to visit this place from which we wonderful folk are derived. And before we can say “Jamaica”, we’ve created a tourist (that’s kinda my take) but a very important point to consider, seriously.
Who we are says a lot about where we’re from, so those of you “out of liners” (my words) take heed; Jamaica needs you but only with your best behavior in tow. In the words of the Minister, “the recent events are a game-changer; we cannot continue to do business as usual.”
Image the Minister reiterated is important, “you are an extension of the Brand.”
It was important the minister said, to focus on the best and brightest the island has to offer; the iconic nature of her citizens, our unassailable qualities and cultural attributes—the music, the arts, sports and the beauty and uniqueness of the island’s flora and fauna.
The Diaspora the minister explained is the first line of defense and maybe in this case attack (my word and maybe not the most apropos), but message understood. 10% of all visitors to the Island he says come from the Diaspora.
A special campaign targeting the Diaspora is in the works. That was welcome news to all especially to Patrick Buddington of Carib Zone Media, who asked, “Will there be special messaging targeting the Diaspora?”
For those concerned about the show of force and how that played negatively to the Diaspora and main stream media, Minister Bartlett was clear, the show of force was unprecedented he declared, but the state was under attack. It is important he says that the world sees that the Government is in charge.
In his introductory remarks the Director of Tourism, John Lynch, declared the state of affairs in the travel arena stabilized. This he said was based on reports from the marketplace that future bookings have begun to show improvement. In his words “last week was bad, this week is better.”
He spoke to the near normalcy in Kingston as people go about their life of work and nightlife; and commended Director General in the Tourism Ministry Carole Guntley for her stellar work in manning the communication room set up at the Hilton Hotel during the crisis
And what about the cancellations; a matter which Wayne Cummings president of the National Hotel & Tourist Association (NHTA) said was cause for concern. The minister again reiterated that the JTB’s focus was on future bookings.
The role of community tourism was put into focus. Director General Guntley, laid out the blue-print for the program. The bed & breakfast model is being pursued especially along the south coast corridor. Residents with more than four rooms are being encouraged to register; communities who think they have something to offer should submit their programs. There are incentives such as micro-loans and tax-free cover for participants. The master plan she continued will include numerous attractions: The Calabash Literary Festival, Appleton Attractions, the Cockpit Country, and the Trelawny Caves, among them.
Ken Williams, radio broadcaster, urged the Minister to rely more on the Diaspora as we are the frontline in the effort to repair the country’s image.
In wrapping up his presentation, the minister reemphasized that the way forward is to present the country in the best light, articulate a message against violence, and formulate a strong commitment to social programs and education, with early childhood education as the centre piece.
The political will he says is there, now, the national will is being summoned.
The tourism minister was accompanied by Director of Tourism, John Lynch; Director General in the tourism ministry, Carole Brady; Deputy Director of Tourism, David L. Shields. Accompanying the team was Geneive Brown-Metzger, Jamaica’s Consul General, New York.
In addition to meeting with the Diaspora, the team was in New York for the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) Caribbean Week celebrations.