NEW YORK CITY – Less than a week following the U.S. State Department’s decision to lift a nearly two-month long travel alert to Kingston, Jamaica Tourist Board Chairman John Lynch sat down with Travel Agent Wednesday morning to talk about the key role agents played in minimizing the damage to the country’s tourism industry during the crisis that started in late May.
“The travel agents, in particular, stood out as a real friend to Jamaica,” Lynch said. “They all knew what was really happening in Jamaica and that it was still safe to go there. This is where our relationship with the travel industry really proved big.”
Since the gang-related riots began in Kingston, Lynch says daily bulletins were sent to agents, operators and other tourism professionals, keeping everyone updated on the situation as well as urging them that it was safe for clients to travel to Jamaica.
And it seemed to work.
In fact, Jamaica saw no decrease during the months of the alert, which was initially issued when criminal gang members, lead by accused drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke, amassed in Kingston. Lynch says the months of May and June were both flat while July actually saw a small increase by a “few points.”
But now that Jamaican authorities captured Coke in late June, ending a full month of riots that lead to the death of more than 70 civilians, Jamaica can now look to the future.
And that future involves further fortifying the JTB’s strong relationship with agents by concluding a series of road shows in August followed by a series of fam trips in the fall that will involve close to 2,000 agents.
“Our relationship with agents continues to prove crucial,” Lynch said. “Even when all of this was happening, we still had many tourists in Mo-Bay [Montego Bay] who refused to cut their trips short. They didn’t want to leave. They knew they were safe and for this, we have the agents to thank.”