Would it surprise you to discover that Donovan White is not just ‘hopeful,’ he’s actually ‘optimistic?’
Asked about his expectations for the 2021-2022 winter season out of Canada, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism told Travel Courier: “We are more than hopeful. I would say we are optimistic. We’re optimistic because our Canadian partners, particularly our airline partners – Air Canada, WestJet, Swoop, Transat and Sunwing – have all committed to flying through the winter and have pretty much guaranteed some 258,000 seats to the destination through [this] winter.”
And he continued: “I’ll remind you that in 2019, we had some 305, 000 seats, so effectively, this number [258,000] puts us at about 82% of 2019’s capacity. So, we’re almost back to pre-COVID-19 levels of capacity in seats from Canada [and] that makes us extremely optimistic.”
White also confided to TC that the “word from all the carriers since they have begun selling their winter vacations is that the booking trends have been ‘pretty feverish,’ so we’re going to continue to work with them, to invest in our marketing and communication.”
More importantly, White said that Jamaica is going to continue to “invest in the time we spend with our key partners, which are the travel agents. They have been extremely good to us throughout this period of the pandemic. We have been engaging with them through our local team here in Canada and that has worked to our benefit to keep the destination top of mind.”
Yet with the global pandemic still having a major impact on travel, it seemed obvious to ask how that changes Jamaica’s messaging to the industry; in terms of how to sell the destination and how agents should be talking to their clients about the destination.
White told TC that: “We have been very consistent with our message and it won’t change. We have created a set of protocols that have served our efforts extremely well. I’ve heard from several of our travel partners who have been on fams that they are extremely happy with what they’ve experienced in Jamaica. So, we don’t plan to change that and, if anything, we plan to make it even more aggressive in terms of making sure that our visitors feel safe and secure whilst there in the destination.”
Jamaica’s Director of Tourism also pointed out that: “The Resilient Corridor really provides us with a safe haven for visitors [coming] to the destination. It would be remiss of me if I don’t say this, but the positivity rate in the Resilient Corridor is less that 1% — of all the visitors that have come to Jamaica, less than 1%, in fact, to be more specific, it’s more like 0.4% — have returned a COVID-19 positive [test] while in the corridor.”
And he continues: “So, we believe that the protocols are working. They provide that sense of real safety and security for our visitors and we’re going to continue to use that message with consistency to ensure that we drive that level of confidence into every traveller’s mind.”
As for travel agents, White said that they’re already helping Jamaica get its message out.
“They’re doing a fantastic job,” White told TC during a recent interview in Toronto.
But to reinforce its engagement with the travel trade, White said that Jamaica is gearing up for Japex – set for Nov. 8 to Nov. 10 – and it will include an in-person event with travel partners in the destination as well as a virtual engagement “in markets where there are still some challenges for travellers exiting their country and coming to ours.”
Said White: “We fell it’s important that we engage our partners to come into the destination and see, if they haven’t yet, see the protocols work; see the Resilient Corridor; you know, press flesh with our suppliers on island; so that we can continue to build the recovery momentum going into 2022.”