Tue | Nov 29, 2022

Jamaica seeks to tap Japanese travel market

Published:Monday | September 26, 2022 | 12:12 AM
Patrons take an interest in Jamaica’s booth at Japan Expo in Tokyo.
Patrons take an interest in Jamaica’s booth at Japan Expo in Tokyo.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaica has signalled its intention to re-engage Japan's 20 million outbound travellers, capitalising on nearly 60 years of diplomatic relations as well as the Asian nation's appetite for Blue Mountain coffee, reggae, and diverse culinary offerings.

Making the commitment on the eve of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's World Tourism Day, the Jamaica Tourist Board is hoping to bolster the move with a mega familiarisation trip of the best multilingual travel agents to the island next year.

The announcement follows “fruitful discussions” with senior executives of the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) during the expo, a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism said.

“Japan represents a key market for re-engagement given the country's outbound travel of over 20 million in 2019 and the strong cultural and diplomatic connections with Jamaica. The timing is also perfect as COVID-19 restrictions in Japan are set to be lifted by October 11,” Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who is in Tokyo for Japan Expo, was quoted as saying.

JATA is one of the largest associations of travel agents with more than 1,000 travel companies.

According to the tourism ministry, JATA Chairperson Hiroyuki Takahashi expressed optimism about the rebound of Japanese travel and highlighted the readiness of tour operators to begin selling as restrictions ease. He also agreed that tourism resilience was key to recovery as the global industry remains vulnerable to several shocks.

The talks come as Bartlett touts the World Tourism Day theme of 'Rethinking Tourism'. In his message at a thanksgiving church service officially marking the start of Tourism Awareness week 2022, he said a path towards the sustainable recovery of the industry was being charted.

The industry generates direct employment for 175,000 Jamaicans and indirect employment for more than 354,000 Jamaicans, including hotel workers, farmers, craft vendors, entertainers, and transportation operators. It is also the single largest contributor to the country's GDP and the main source of foreign exchange revenues.

Jamaica's Director of Tourism Donovan White said that what the world is seeing is a pent-up demand for travel.

He said the planned familiarisation trip will allow for better selling and packaging of destinations for vacation seekers.

Over the next few weeks, there will also be discussions with Japan Airlines and ANA Airlines to finalise code-share arrangements that will allow Japanese travel agents to package and sell Jamaica with both United States and Canadian carriers, local tourism officials said.

Approximately 1.1 million Japanese travelled between April and August when the market began reopening. Data among Japanese travellers suggest that culinary experiences will remain a key motivator for travel. Other traditional motivators such as shopping, natural and scenic attractions, and historic/cultural attractions will also remain key drivers.

As anxious as Jamaica is to return to full recovery, the island has adopted the UNWTO's suggestion of putting people and the planet first and bringing everyone from governments and businesses to local communities together around a shared vision for a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient sector.

During the week, which runs from September 25 to October 1, the tourism ministry will focus on building awareness of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com