Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, credits technology with the record number of tourists that arrived in the island last year.
Speaking at the recent Global Digital Marketing Summit, that had its main conference room at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston, Barlett also dismissed claims that Jamaica’s fortune was as a result of the damage to other small islands by hurricanes.
According to Barlett, Jamaica’s tourism product have been boosted by the Ministry of Tourism employing a number of technology-based solutions, including using online booking agency, Airbnb, which added another dimension to the tourism product.
This Barlett said, is a result of millennials creating disruption with a shared economy, where companies provide opportunities for customers, without owning any tangible assets. He used Airbnb and Uber as the respective leaders in travel and taxi service, without owning a hotel or any cars.
Barlett said, “suddenly the whole business of access became what is required. Connect with a portal, get access, use the facilities and guess what, the enrichment of the experience is not denied you.
“So what this technology is doing for us, is causing some new connectivity, but in the process, it is creating a level of transparency that the world has never seen before. Indeed a transparency excellency that is frightening, because this hyper-connectivity that it allows for, makes no secret of what it is about, nor does it keep the secrets of anyone who is connected with it,” Barlett said.
According to Barlett, this is driving big data opportunities for the tourism industry to target a specific market and individuals who are interested in a particular product.
He said, “big data is now manipulatable and it is being used as a huge tool to drive decision making, to give knowledge about destinations, about habits, about choices, about patterns. It’s driving the demographic profile of the market and the psychographic profile of the market.
“So with big data, we can now make decisions as to who do you market to, where do you market, what level of resources do you apply to what market, but the best part of it is now you can measure and manage,” Barlett said.
The minister pointed out that tourists are now requesting connectivity in their travels and this will help the small players in the industry to be better able to compete with the all-inclusive hotels.
Bartlett said, “we are making our destination a smart destination and we are developing apps to enable connectivity between the visitors and the experiential points in Jamaica.
“One of the apps, for example, is the Taste of Jamaica mobile app on microsite, which allows our visitors to be able to connect with the Blue Mountain culinary trail for example, and all those little restaurants and things along the way, they can be connected, so that you now can buy the Jamaican experience before they get here.
“They used to have a theme that says once you go you know, now with that technology, it is now, once you know you go,” Bartlett said.
With regards to Jamaica’s tourism benefitting from the hurricane misfortunes of other Caribbean islands, Bartlett said that Jamaica might have gotten a few visitors that would have otherwise gone elsewhere, but the numbers would have been inconsequential to last year’s growth.
He said, Airbnb provided 55,000 visitors to the island and pumped US$8 million into the pockets of ordinary Jamaicans, while only operating in the island for half of the year.
He said the ministry will soon be launching a new website, which will be the most comprehensive and efficient that has ever been done for the tourism product.
He said individuals like craft vendors, taxi men, farmers and street vendors will be able to generate content on the site, which will allow them to have interactions with the tourists before they get to the island.
Bartlett, however, implored content providers to be efficient and operate with integrity, as “what you say in your content must be realised in the experience”.
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