In the fast-paced, constantly evolving world of travel, 11 years is an eternity. Think about it: in 1999, we were busy worrying about Y2K, not the dangers of terrorism or the recession’s strain on economies worldwide. It would take a strong tourism product with effective leadership and strong outside support to make it through all the changes and challenges of the past decade. That product, in a nutshell, is Jamaica.
Jamaica is one of the most consistent winners in Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards history, with an 11-year winning streak in the category of Best Selling Destination in the Caribbean. Director of tourism John Lynch says that’s because of the symbiotic relationship between the island and its travel agent partners.
“We have been consistent with our support with travel agents and we have never wavered from that,” he says. “It’s almost a love affair that we have had with travel agents.” Part of the love agents feel for Jamaica stems from benefits like FAMs, he continues. For example, “In the month of September this year, we brought 2,000 travel agents to Jamaica just to look and see.”
In return, he continues, the tourist board can count on agents when it’s faced with challenges like 9/11-related drops in travel or economic worries—or, in May of this year, when the search for a drug lord resulted in violent fighting in certain neighborhoods in Kingston. “We relied very heavily on our travel agent partners [during that time],” Lynch says. “We relied on them to send out correct information and worked with them consistently. We never veered from that.” With agents helping to spread the message that Jamaica’s tourist areas were unaffected, travel to the island remained relatively stable.
Jamaica’s frequently sponsored travel agent FAMs also serve another purpose—keeping agents up to date on product across the island, which is in a constant state of evolution. “We are going through some amazing changes,” Lynch notes. “I hope I will not sound too proud, but Jamaica has the best product in the Caribbean—our infrastructure, our airport, our roads to major resort areas, our hotels. I also must compliment our private sector. Our hotels also have a very close working relationship with travel agents.” (It’s true—one of Jamaica’s most iconic resort chains, the Sandals and Beaches brands, were also big winners in this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards.)
Agents can look forward to more sponsored FAMs in 2011, Lynch says, as well as “great vacation values in the spring and summer.” A new cruise ship pier in the north coast town of Falmouth should be
“…in full gear” by January, he continues, as will the Montego Bay Convention Centre, which will host its first event that month as well. Beyond that, Lynch says, Jamaica’s sticking to what works: “We’re going to be doing what we did last year, really. We will keep on improving the product and moving along.”