TORONTO — Like all Canadians, Donovan White, Director of Tourism for the Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB), is keeping a close eye on Canada’s ongoing mandatory quarantine.
Noting the importance of the Canadian market, White is fully aware how the measure may deter Canadians from travelling at this time, and how this could impact Jamaica’s all-important winter season. But he is encouraged by news of antigen testing that could potentially cut down quarantine periods, like the testing pilot project recently announced at Calgary Airport.
This, coupled with JTB’s boots-on-the-ground efforts, gives White plenty of hope for the Canadian market’s rebound.
“We understand completely the challenge that Covid presents in relation to countries and their borders and having to protect themselves and their citizens. But we also believe there is a demand by Canadians to travel to the Caribbean and, in fact, to Jamaica,” he tells Travelweek in an exclusive interview at this year’s JAPEX, which kicked off yesterday and ends today. “We have worked extremely hard on the ground in terms of driving demand, driving training, and driving appetite for the destination in the consumer space, as well as in the trade space.”
To ensure Jamaica remains top of mind among Canadian travellers, White says the JTB is in constant communication with travel agents, particularly during this downtime in travel.
“We have probably one of the most vibrant groups of travel specialists anywhere in the industry and we engage with them on a weekly, bi-weekly and monthly basis to provide destination training, engagement opportunities and to keep them informed about all aspects of the destination,” he says. “We are very proud of the work and the effort our travel agents have always given to Jamaica, and how they’ve maintained this throughout these difficult times.”
White adds: “I want to thank every one of them for their commitment and focus and partnership with Jamaica. We will continue to find new and innovative ways to create more incentives and opportunities to drive not just their business, but also the return of tourism across the world.”
JAPEX, Jamaica’s leading hospitality and tourism industry event that went virtual this year for the first time, concludes today with more buyer-seller appointments and a wide range of breakout sessions ranging in topics from Adventure Travel, to MICE and Gastronomy. Also taking place today was a roundtable discussion featuring Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Edmund Bartlett, Gloria Guevara, President & CEO of WTTC, Pablo Jose Torres Sojo, President of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), and Adam Goldstein, Global Chairman of CLIA.
Goldstein, who spoke about the importance of resilience, remains hopeful for cruising’s future despite the industry’s full stop in operations.
“If you go back to January, we thought we were going to serve 32 million customers this year around the world, but now we’re down to essentially 100% – not just WTTC’s 65% metric for international travel, but virtually 100%,” he said. “But we’re optimistic about the future, of course we are because we’re tourism people. We see the public sentiment is increasingly favourable to our return, and we see that cruising has worked out a formula for how to cruise in Europe safely on an everyday basis right now.”
On the CDC’s recent announcement of its new Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which replaced its longstanding No Sail Order, Goldstein said CLIA is working its way through the framework “almost as I speak”. This is in addition to CLIA’s own initiatives in recent months to ensure the safe resumption of operations, including the “100% adoption of testing as a basic requirement for crew and guests prior to boarding any cruise anywhere in the world” as well as the implementation of 74 recommendations set out by the Healthy Sail Panel, an esteemed group of health experts in the United States.
Specific to the Caribbean, CLIA, together with destinations in the region, has created America’s Cruise Task Force, which aims to provide a seamless and safe experience for all guests.
“It’s a really invigorated way of dialoguing between communities that cruises visit and the cruise industry about how to implement the protocols and make sure that we’re seamlessly aligned, not only to deliver the destination experience safely, but to handle any COVID-19 episodes that may occur,” said Goldstein. “We value our relationships with the destinations tremendously, the Caribbean in general and Jamaica in particular, and we look forward to quickly recovering from this misfortune together, with our destination partners.”
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