Tourism official says China market poses challenge in push to Far East

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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TOURISM authorities have begun to look in earnest towards the Far East for new markets to sell destination Jamaica but say China, in particular, poses a challenges because of the unique nature and requirements of the Chinese visitor.

Director of tourism at the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) Donovan White says Jamaica wants to venture into the new markets of China, Japan and India over the next few years, but at the moment has “deprioritised” China to the back end of that period, partly because of “readiness issues for the Chinese traveller that the destination needs to understand”.

He was speaking yesterday at a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) with officials of the tourism ministry and its agencies, at Gordon House.

“Language is a big one (issue). There is a tremendous turn-off for the Chinese traveller to be guided on a tour by someone speaking English,” he said.

White further explained that there is a vast difference in the eating habits of the Chinese that local hotels will adapt to, in order to provide the best service.

“The menus of the Chinese is significantly different than our own and that of the menu appetite of the hoteliers in Jamaica. For example, the Chinese typically eat for breakfast what we eat for dinner. So we are on opposite sides of the menu offerings,” he explained, noting also that the Chinese also have particular expectations for their accommodations.

“There is some amount of time that is needed to get to that level of understanding and readiness; there is an overall appreciation of the fact that most of the Chinese that come to Jamaica today are probably not for tourism purposes [so] they're not necessarily participating in the attractions. We feel that there needs to be a capacity-building period, and we feel that there is enough on the plate with Japan, India, and Latin America,” he stated.

China is, however, optimistic about the Jamaican tourism industry and is willing to expand the tourism cooperation between the republic and Jamaica, and explore ways of investment and cooperation.

Economic and commercial counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Kingston, Fan Jianghong, assured yesterday that, “difficulties can be overcome”.

He told the Jamaica Observer that to target the Chinese market, well-positioned marketing strategies and properly designed tourism products portfolio are necessary.

“With the growing tourism market in China, the demand for Chinese tourists is also increasing and diversified. Jamaican side may need to consider that into your marketing and branding strategy, too,” he said.

Fan stressed that the potential for Jamaican tourism is great, not only because of the island's rich cultural heritage but also its unique geographical and geomorphological features, as well as human resources such as reggae music, sports stars and foods.

“Once been a Caribbean pirate base, it is also the origin of Blue Mountain Coffee and Appleton Rum, which are uniquely appealing to Oriental tourists,” Fan pointed out.

He noted Prime Minister Andrew Holness's recent visit to China, and the widespread, positive response there.

“Both sides are working together to implement the relevant achievements in this visit, sharing China's development opportunities, expanding the development of local economy to attract more investment and generate more job opportunities,” counsellor Fan said.

Meanwhile, White said the ministry has appointed representative companies to push efforts in the Far East.

“We are going to continue to push for the increase in the arrivals from the Far East, particularly Japan,” he said.

He noted that several tour operator companies in India have already sent delegations here in the last six months to understand the nuances of the destination, and the product.

White noted also that in addition to airlifts, tourism authorities have also intensified on-the-ground marketing to engage tour operators, and travel agents in Latin and South America.

“... So there is a tremendous amount of work that we have put in over the last 12 months to understand these marketplaces and to ensure that now that we are venturing into them we can in fact activate them effectively and grow them over time,” the tourism director said.


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