The Ministry of Tourism along with hoteliers in Jamaica have partnered to launch the ‘Rediscover Jamaica” campaign as an initiative to encourage domestic tourism.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told members of the diaspora on Thursday (January 27), that this is among the innovative strategies that tourism stakeholders are implementing and which will keep the occupancy levels buoyant. This initiative provides staycation packages that allow locals to stay at various hotels at drastically reduced rates.
Addressing the monthly online programme “Let’s Connect with Ambassador Marks”, hosted by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks, Minister Bartlett explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the most significant and sustained challenge to Jamaica’s tourism product since the development of the sector in the 1950s.
He said the disruption to international travel as a result of reduced travellers’ confidence within important source markets such as the USA, Canada and the UK, has required that tourism stakeholders in Jamaica find innovative strategies to keep up occupancy levels.
“As a complementary strategy to our efforts to promote domestic tourism, we have also increased our focus on another important group of Jamaicans to diversify our tourism product…Jamaicans living overseas. To this end, we are hoping to leverage the collective powers of the diaspora,” Bartlett said.
The tourism minister pointed out that “as we look to recover from the current crisis and plan for the future, we are seriously looking at diaspora tourism as a means of accelerating investments in the country’s tourism product. Indeed, Jamaica’s sizable and loyal diaspora has the potential to be a key driver of growth and diversification of tourism,” Bartlett declared.
To support the programme and in commemoration of the island’s 60th independence anniversary, the tourism minister announced a “60/60 Diaspora Vacation Package”. This will target 60 Jamaican couples from the diaspora to stay in one of the country’s luxurious hotels at a rate of US$60 per night from mid- August to mid-December.
“The diaspora is a major component of our market, and is also major marketers, because foreigners are…driven to visit Jamaica by the “word of mouth” and lived experiences of the Jamaicans who they meet,” he noted.
The tourism minister pointed out that “our diaspora is also a reliable source of foreign revenue as many immigrants travel to their home countries seasonally as tourists.
“Diaspora visitors are responsible for 11-15% of Jamaica’s total annual arrivals. Diasporic tourism can also spur growth in the country’s export economy. The diaspora also represents a reliable market for the export of Jamaican products,” he said.
Speaking to the over 500 online participants from the USA, Mexico, the UK and Bermuda, Ambassador Marks said, “the diaspora represents a unique kind of tourist. They are more likely than international tourists to have or make connections with the local economy by staying in locally owned, smaller accommodations or with relatives, eating in local restaurants, and buying from local vendors.
“This year promises to be a very special one! Jamaica will be celebrating its diamond jubilee of independence – that is, its 60 years of independence! More than ever, the embassy and consulates will be reaching out to explore areas of collaboration to benefit Jamaica.
“Whether it be by adopting a clinic, a police station, a school or sponsoring a student, we have the potential to impact Jamaica for the better and I look forward to the diaspora’s continued commitment,” Ambassador Marks said.