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JIS News

A year after Jamaica was granted approved destination status from China, plans are being put in place for the country to begin receiving some of the more than 19 million Chinese tourists who travel annually, by early 2007.
Deputy Director of Tourism, David Shields, informs JIS News that since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last year February between both countries, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) has been looking at establishing the framework for marketing Jamaica’s tourism within China.
He points out that the MOU lays the basis for a number of things to be put in place from both ends, one of which is the establishment of approved tour operators. “We have spent the last year putting that structure in place, where we have the approved tour operators from the Jamaican end and twinning those with approved tour operators from the Chinese end,” he explains.
Mr. Shields says that within the distribution channel of travel from China, there are approximately 600 state approved tour operators and it is out of this list that the JTB is seeking to establish those with whom Jamaica will form commercial arrangements.
From the Jamaican end, he explains that the Chinese are looking at destination management companies, which are Jamaican based and operated, to try and establish relationships between Jamaican entities and those Chinese companies.
“So we spent the year dealing with that. We also spent the year looking at the visa issues, primarily with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Immigration Department,” he points out, adding that the visa issue is an important consideration for any destination seeking to do business in China. With the establishment of the Jamaican embassy in China last year, Mr. Shields says they have been able to see some benefits springing from that.
He also points out that one of the main strategies being used in the bid for Chinese tourists is the incentive offer, with large groups seeing Jamaica as an incentive to their staff and customers. “So they’ll arrange a tour to Jamaica as incentive for sale objectives, for meeting any particular target, so in a category it is referred to as the ‘meeting incentive convention business’. and those persons tend to move in groups, and that would fulfill the condition of the MOU,”
Mr. Shields notes.In 2004 Jamaica participated in one of the largest international tourism events, when it attended the Beijing International Travel and Tourism Market (BITTM) in China, which was described as being quite successful.
“This was in fact before the establishment of the embassy, and proved to have been very useful for us from a tourism perspective, also in terms of Jamaica’s understanding of the market and also from some indications of cultural activities and cultural levels,” Mr. Shields says, adding that the Trade Fair proved quite beneficial, not only for the JTB, but for other related interests.
“We were also accompanied by members of the Jamaican private sector who, out of that, established business relationships with companies who could support their needs on the ground – translation services, arranging for shows and arranging for trade visits. That has started and that started out of our very first trip last April,” he notes.
Already, the JTB is looking at going beyond Beijing, as Mr. Shields explains they will be going to Shanghai for the World Travel Fair, which takes place from March 30 to April 2. Following this visit, the team will move on to Beijing from April 2 to 5 to participate in the second staging of the BITTM.
“It is important that we are in Shanghai as this represents 47 per cent of total outbound Chinese travel and of course that is the market we are going after,” he emphasizes, adding that Beijing represents approximately 27 per cent, while Guangzhou, the other province in the south, represents the third major market, which includes Hong Kong and Macao. “So we will be looking at those three areas in terms of our own strategy,” he informs JIS News.
The first attempt at visiting Shanghai this year, Mr. Shields says, is also being supported by Jamaican private sector partners, in particular, a primary coffee producer who will be doing something special there this year.
On the matter of marketing Jamaica, particularly to the Chinese, Mr. Shields says these tourists are not necessarily coming to the island for sun, sea and sand, but they want to know about the culture and be able to shop.
“In fact, shopping represents a significant spend when the Chinese travel,” he says, and notes that the Chinese are taken up with the excellence of Jamaican sportsmen and women. He points out that it is also important for Chinese tourists to visit Jamaica, as the country prepares for the staging of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
In getting ready to welcome these visitors, Mr. Shields says, “we need to ensure that we have some basic infrastructure in place. We are not yet there as we still have a far way to go, but we are trying to understand the market and it is in that context that we would like to caution the market that we are not going to see large numbers of Chinese running all over Jamaica, because some of these things are not fully in place”.
“We have to ensure that the hotels are able to provide meals for the Chinese,” he stresses. He also notes that the University of the West Indies has already started a programme to teach the Mandarin language. “In the interim, we are working closely with our new embassy in China and with representatives who are working for us, who will do some of the basic Chinese translation,” he says.
Another important issue to be considered is the airlift of Chinese tourists to Jamaica. “The airlift situation is not seamless and although in the last year we have seen, for example, Continental Airline starting non-stop service from Newark to Beijing and Air Canada doing service from Beijing to Toronto, the difficulty of the visa over the US presents a problem for the Chinese,” he explains.
For now, Chinese travellers coming to Jamaica do so through London, but Mr. Shields says they are having dialogue with Air Canada to see if Toronto can become an ultimate gateway, as well as the Los Angeles gateway with Air Jamaica.
He tells JIS News that they will be working with some other country partners, like Cuba. “We hope that the dialogue with our Central American partners will also bear some fruits in terms of twin destination travel to Jamaica,” Mr. Shields says.