Diaspora is key to Jamaica’s tourism, says tourism minister
Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Ed Barlett says the Jamaican Diaspora is a “vital component” of the tourism marketing strategy of Jamaica’s government.
In his recent interview with the National Weekly while visiting South Florida, Bartlett said the Diaspora is “a big part of our market, and the biggest marketers for Jamaica, because people are more driven by the word of mouth of the Jamaican about the destination than they are about what the television says, or what YouTube is saying or Social Media….we regard our Diaspora as a very key resource.”
Responding to the Diaspora’s demand for special vacation packages designed for it, Bartlett indicated special tourist market packages targeted to the Diaspora is for tour operators and travel agents, although this is done with the government’s concurrence. “I don’t think the government can intervene because that would be interfering with the market, but certainly we encourage specific targeting of the Diaspora, particularly the younger generation, those who perhaps have nationalities other than Jamaican, whose connection with us is first generation parents and grandparents. This is an opportunity for this new generation to return to their roots, get a feeling of their culture, and a sense of themselves, This is a very important part of the government’s Diaspora program.”
The minister emphasized that his government has embarked on a specific policy “to incorporate and integrate the Diaspora into Jamaica’s development strategies. We’re looking at how the Diaspora can be better partners in diplomacy, for example, and in trade, and in the use of culture and the wider representation of Jamaica… this whole business of the para-diplomatic value of the Diaspora is huge.”
He believes the Jamaican Diaspora has “more access to the halls of power and the centers of influence than our formal ambassadors, The Diaspora represent for us the real touch points we need in the markets abroad.”
Addressing a sore point among some members of the Diaspora as to why successive Jamaican governments continue to contract promotion of Jamaica’s tourism to foreign owned companies, the minister tried to explain this is based on the tender system the government uses for contracts.
“The government goes to tender for all contracts. This is the rule of the game in Jamaica. When we tender a contract, we are open to getting the best response from companies to our strategies and vision, and how these responses and the technical proficiencies of the companies blend with the government’s views.” He emphasized the government is “open to Jamaican, English and American firms, whatever firm that fits the bill and is able to give us the return that we require, I believe this is the formed way of doing it, and I believe the Diaspora understands that.”
As to why the Jamaica Tourism Board isn’t regularly placing ads with Jamaican-owned media in the Diaspora, Bartlett said that is something he’s going to look into. “I’m not sure just how many placements have been done and what level of expenditure has been applied, but I can find that out, simply by getting an up-to-date position from the Tourist Board as to the spending in the various segments of media.”