Jamaica: The New ’It’ Island

What makes it so hot, mon?

Canadians are flocking to Jamaica. There has been a 100% increase in arrivals since 2007 with numbers hitting just under 300,000 Canadians in 2009. What puts an island on the ‘must go’ list of Canadian tourists? Not that long ago, Jamaica was shunned for being unsafe and tired.

Dan Hamilton, District Sales Manager of the Jamaica Tourist Board in Canada, puts it simply. “Jamaica is going through a rebirth.” can’t help but wonder how you ‘remake’ an island. We talked to some experts about what is contributing to Jamaica’s newfound “It” status among Canadian tourists.

First and foremost, she’s hot, hot, hot
Some popular sun destinations can experience variable winter weather patterns, whereas for the most part, Jamaican weather is constant – which is an important criterion when a year’s worth of stress release is packed into one week on the beach.

Location. Location. Location
Ease of access is always a factor in selecting sun destinations. With most holidays structured around a seven day window, Canadians don’t like wasting precious holiday time with lengthy stopovers. So having a good choice of non-stop air service has an immediate impact on traffic to a destination. Ontario and Quebec have always had good schedules to Jamaica. But Dan Hamilton says Jamaica Vacations, the route development arm of the tourist board, “has succeeded in encouraging airlines to fly from Canadian cities not currently served.” Out of Western Canada, tour operators have added more weekly flights to Jamaica than ever before. He points specifically to success from cities like Calgary and Vancouver.

As seen on TV
“We have beefed up our presence in Canada with more TV and print than ever before,” Hamilton said. With the U.S. economy in turmoil, much of the promotional spending that would normally have been directed there has been reallocated to Canada.

Fresh faces
There is more to see and do in Jamaica than ever before, with new attractions and tours, along with an investor friendly environment that has seen the construction of a number of new resort properties. Hamilton believes new Spanish owned properties offering well-known brands have been a big help. “Brands like the Fiesta Palladium, Bahia Principe and Iberostar are recognized by Canadians for their quality accommodation and service,” says Hamilton. The combined synergistic effect of additional ad dollars and new and improved facility offerings is paying off.

At your service
The Toronto office of the Jamaican Tourist Board does its homework. Rather than pull back during tough times, as did some tourist boards, seven full time employees, and dedicated representatives in Montreal, Calgary, and Toronto reinvested in spreading the “One love. One Heart” message to Canadians.

I shot the sheriff
As seen with other sun destinations, crime news can empty beaches faster than red tide. While Jamaica has never been seen as a haven of security, murder and mayhem against tourists is rare, and has not hit the front pages for several years.

Ultimately, it’s like any product – it’s all in how you sell it. For Jamaica, having frequent non-stop flights from all across Canada has been key in renewing interest in the destination. Combine that with concentrated marketing, resort development, and a tourism department committed to a Canadian presence and, voila, the island is ready for its close up.

By Ron Pradinuk
Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre, a travel products retail outlet , as well as Winnipeg based Renaissance Travel. He is past national president of the
Association of Canadian Travel Agencies.

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