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How can destinations safely reopen to international visitors? What are the strategies behind the reopening and what's the role of DMOs? These are only few of the questions we asked to VisitJamaica, who told us how they successfully managed to keep the nation safe for both of international tourists and locals, developing effective protocols and solid communication campaigns.

Today we have connected with Donovan White, director of the Jamaican Tourism Board who has shared with us the NTO's approach in tackling the crisis going through the different phases of recovery.

Key Takeaways

The Jamaican Tourism Board, founded in 1954, represents an historical institution for the country. The NTO is not only responsible for the branding and marketing of the destination, but has responsibility under the tourism board act to ensure the level of compliance for licensing of tourism entities across Jamaica. Over the years, the team has been constantly growing, and today counts on 190 employees spread across five different offices around the world, a truly international and diversified team with strong institutional knowledge.

The importance of international arrivals for Jamaica

Jamaica is strongly dependant on tourism and specifically on international arrivals. The tourism sector provides employment to more than 300.000 workers, with the tourism industry contributing directly to the 9% of Jamaica's GDP, and indirectly contributing for the 1/3 GDP. A sector that generates almost 50% of the foreign exchange earnings of the nations's economy. With no doubt, Jamaica has been one of the worst affected countries in terms of tourist arrivals, and will still be for the next quarter of 2020, with forecasts predicting a reduction of about 10-12% of the GDP. Despite that, the NTO has not entered into any 'panic mode', but instead choose to adopt a conscious approach, focusing on safety, strong protocols and collaboration.

Developing a strategy around strong protocols

Jamaica's current strategy is centred around safety: to develop such a strategy, the NTO has adopted a collaborative approach, engaging with the private sector, the unions of workers and the main governmental organisations such as the Ministry of Health, Foreign Trade & Affairs and Tourism. To provide the highest level of safety for both locals and tourists they have put into place an extremely efficient protocol, which includes the initial opening of domestic tourism along specific 'corridors', and the launch of an innovative online platform for anyone entering the country.

As the virus initially spread, more than 10.000 Jamaicans were finding themselves 'stranded' abroad needing to be repatriated. The NTO, together with the ministry of health and the private sector has launched 'Jamcovid' - a platform allowing anyone entering the country to run self-assessments, answering specific pre-screening questions and getting pre-authorisation before booking any trip. As international borders reopened on June 15th, the same platform was used to pre-screen international tourists. After registration, five key questions are asked to visitors, allowing the customs to get access in advance to important information that will help speed up the process at the border. This was made available on a larger scale by collaborating with IATA (International Air Transport Association) who has integrated the platform in their partner's booking systems. Even before booking a flight, visitors are asked to go through the pre-screening, ensuring all travellers are allowed to enter the country.

A conscious approach, focused on safety, inspiration and culture

The fact that Jamaica is strongly dependent on international arrivals is obviously making the situation challenging for the Tourism Board. In response to this, the NTO has adopted a very conscious approach, focusing the messaging around safety and inspiring prospective tourists with digital campaigns sharing real stories and experiences (such as cooking lessons, stories told by locals and virtual tours). As a possible effect of such campaigns, the tourism sector has succeeded in maintaining a high level of residual bookings for 2020, with many tourists postponing instead of canceling their trips. Even if the domestic market may not contribute much in terms of GDP, the NTO is soon to launch a campaign addressed to Jamaicans, aimed to make them ambassadors of their own country. This approach is not new to Jamaica, as in the past years the NTO has already launched  similar campaigns, such 'Join me in Jamaica' telling the stories of locals making them ambassadors of their own country.

The Jamaican offer is a very diverse one, based on peopleculture and heritage, making it a truly authentic experience. Over the years, the NTO has built a multi-layered product on top of their natural and cultural assets: a huge array of unique experiences addressing many different 'personas'. This unique offering represents a competitive advantage that will be crucial in the recovery phase, but in order to get there, the focus will have to remain on training businesses, workers and locals to apply protocols and rediscover their own assets.

VisitJamaica is a strong example of how an NTO can play a crucial role not only in the promotion of the country, but operatively in the management of tourism flows and in the implementation of protocols, ensuring the safety of both locals and tourists.

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