Tourism marketing initiative a success: Bartlett

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Tourism Minister Edwin Bartlett has announced that a marketing initiative undertaken to counter negative publicity generated by the conflict in West Kingston over alleged drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke is yielding success.

In the aftermath of the unrest in May, Bartlett announced a US$10 million marketing and promotional initiative targeting the traditional United States, Canadian and United Kingdom markets, as well as emerging destinations in South America and Europe. He said the negative publicity generated could lead to a possible US$300 million loss in Jamaica’s foreign exchange earnings, if effective damage control measures were not employed.

Speaking at the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) Chairman’s Club Breakfast Forum in New Kingston last week, Bartlett said Jamaica is on track this month to possibly repeat the over 190,000 visitor stopover arrivals recorded in July, 2009.

“This summer is holding well,” said Bartlett. “Last July was the largest month in the history of tourism arrivals in Jamaica (with) 196,000 stopover arrivals recorded, only bettered by March, this year, when we broke the 200,000 mark. We are, at this time, pacing at the same level of July last year.”

Although Bartlett warned of a possible decrease in autumn figures, he was optimistic about winter, noting: “We think we will be back up”.

Bartlett said meetings and discussions with travel partners yielded several positive results, including safeguarding airlift arrangements with several airlines which fly into Jamaica.

“Airlift for us was very critical, because Jamaica is the most connected destination in the (Caribbean) region. When we were able to satisfy our airline partners that Jamaica is still strong enough as a destination for them to fly into, they bought into it sufficiently.

“When I left Canada, West Jet announced eight more flights to Jamaica for the winter, and on the weekend, we (met) with the president of Jet Blue and they will soon be announcing some more new gateways that we are going to be connected to,” said Bartlett.

As a result of the initiative, Bartlett said a number of commitments to visits to Jamaica from overseas tour operators and travel agents have been secured, pointing out that “they have started coming already”.

Regarding the government’s response to the unrest, Bartlett said Jamaica’s overseas tourist partners were assured that the move was a concerted and determined effort to counter crime and violence and assure safety for visitors and locals. (JIS)

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