The Jamaica Tourist Board works to ensure that of all the islands in the Caribbean, visitors pick Montego Bay, Kingston, Ocho Rios or any of the draws on Jamaica over its similarly attractive neighbors. Founded in 1955, the agency has evolved over the years to shape the industry that's a top revenue source for the island.
Jamaica's minister of tourism appoints the board of directors that oversees the Kingston-based Jamaica Tourist Board. Their task is no small one: bring visitors to the island and make sure they have such a good time that they'll tell friends and family to make the journey as well. The board gathers research to determine what kinds of tourists are coming to the island, which nationalities are getting their passports stamped and how many destination weddings are booked. Upon identifying underserved or untapped markets that could bring in more tourism revenue, the board cooks up strategies to reach out to potential visitors with marketing campaigns and corporate relationships.
To keep up with the competition of surrounding islands trying to lure beachgoing business, the Jamaica Tourist Board has to roll out fresh ad campaigns as needed to tout their sun and surf as the best. In 2013, Jamaica launched commercials featuring a cover of Bob Marley's "One Love," pitching the destination as the best place to relax, rejuvenate and "feel all right." The campaign included trip giveaways and special promotions with certain hotels. That year, the island reached 2 million annual visitors for the first time. In 2014, the board set its sights higher with a revised ad campaign aiming for greater integration with social media. The board runs regional Twitter accounts geared toward Europeans and other segments of tourists, as well as Twitter feeds for those planning weddings in Jamaica or those who just want to ask the tourist board a question.
Jamaica wants its tourism office to be one-stop shopping for information on the island's events and activities, and works with would-be travelers and travel agents in several international offices including Miami, Toronto and London. Within the country, you can visit a tourism office in Kingston or Montego Bay for assistance and advice. The website maintained by the agency, VisitJamaica.com, preps travelers with primers on everything Jamaica, from the people to the rum, and breaks down suggested activities for family holidays to wild spring breaks. It suggests ways to get around the island, where to stay and what to nosh on while in town. The Tourist Board's conventions office staff works with large groups planning on coming to the island to get the best rates on facilities.
The Tourist Board stays up to date on the latest security situations across the island to keep visitors safe and counter the nasty reputation of a high crime rate. Warnings from other countries about the safety of visiting Jamaica can hit the tourism industry hard in a country where about 30 percent of the gross domestic product comes from tourism revenue. The U.S. State Department, for example, cautions travelers about violent crime in Jamaica and an infrastructure too deficient to accommodate foreigners in case of an emergency. Jamaica tourism officials not only provide tips for travelers in addition to the measures recommended by their home countries, but share concerns with security officials and help formulate responses to spikes in crime, natural disasters or other safety issues that could scare away the lifeblood of tourism.