Out of every crisis, there’s an opportunity, and Jamaicans - while clearly unhappy with the recent “Dudus developments” that brought chaos to a section of the capital, Kingston - are finding a silver lining in the clouds of chaos that negatively impacted the nation over the past several weeks.
Hindered by travel advisories following the civil unrest and tragic loss of life in West Kingston, before the eventual arrest of Tivoli Gardens don and alleged drug dealer Christopher “Dudus” Coke, Jamaica has embarked on the tough assignment of restoring the image of a destination known for peace, love and a tourism experience that has earned top ranks in the Caribbean.
While tourism marketers work hard to comfort travelers that the tourist centers of Montego Bay, Negril and Ochos Rios and even the capital of Kingston were unaffected by the brief bout of inner city neighborhood violence, they have reasons to be assured that their efforts will bear fruit.
As well as the millions the Government has added to the tourist board’s marketing arsenal to help restore the image of Jamaica, the island has natural consumer appeal, not just because of its beauty, but because of its friendly people, not the least the late Bob Marley whose lyrics and melodies continue to feature in Jamaica’s television commercials.
Following my recent visit to Kingston to “check out the vibes,” I was asked by a Trinidadian colleague whether it was safe to confirm travel plans to visit Kingston for Caribbean Fashion Week last month. I assured him that everything was indeed “cris” and the Jamaica that the world loves, is that same Jamaica today.
Every Caribbean island or metropolitan city for that matter has had to deal with one public relations nightmare or another, but the negative news and sometimes sensational reporting should not deter travelers from visiting.
Besides the fact that we know Jamaica will recover, what are some of the immediate opportunities for this island whose economy is expected to lose hundreds of millions of dollars from the fallout from the “Dudus” affair?
It’s an opportunity for both the public and private sector players to rethink, refocus, and reposition marketing strategies.
It’s an opportunity to sharpen social media messages to the millions who get their information from Facebook and Twitter.
It’s an opportunity to deepen linkages with the Jamaican Diaspora - the media, community leaders, the business community and the clergy - and equip them with the tools to promote their homeland to world audiences.
It’s an opportunity to hit the road and renew relationships with travel agents and tour operators who sell the destination.
And it’s an opportunity to introduce travel agents, tour operators, the media and influencers in the Diaspora to refreshed resorts and new attractions that have been recently unveiled on the island.
The good news is that Jamaica’s tourism executives and public relations representatives have in fact spared no energies seizing these opportunities.
So, all things being equal, in the months ahead, thousands of travelers should in fact “come to Jamaica and feel alright.”
Bevan Springer, a New York Amsterdam News columnist who writes frequently on travel and tourism issues, is the President of the New Jersey-headquartered Marketplace Excellence, Inc. - a full service, integrated marketing agency committed to excellence in the fields of public relations, marketing and media coaching. He also produces the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism - CMEx.