Ja on show at Shanghai World Expo

BY PETE G SANKEY Senior associate editor sankeyp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 10, 2010

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SHANGHAI, China Photos of Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell, Asafa Powell, Bridgitte Foster-Hylton and other Jamaican athletes were part of the backdrop at the country's booth in the Caribbean pavilion at the World Expo taking place in this Chinese city.

There were also images and videos showing Jamaican beaches, foods and spices, while there was the sampling of Blue Mountain coffee, and the playing of reggae music videos, as about two dozen Chinese and other nationals sat back and enjoyed the offering of the country -- well known on the world stage for its music and athletics.

However, while representatives of other regional countries in the joint Caribbean pavilion were busy selling their country and talking to visitors and journalists about their products, Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) officer A Gene Hylton referred the Observer and Gleaner to Mark Thomas, the agency's communications manager who is based in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.

Thomas, in an e-mail response to Observer queries, said more than 27,000 persons visited the Caribbean pavilion on June 4. "We would extrapolate from this that at least over 20,000 persons visit the pavilion and the Jamaica booth per day. We also anticipate that this will increase as we move more into the summer," Thomas said.

An average 2,000 cups of authentic Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee are sampled each week, he said.

Julia Wang, a Chinese national who has been helping with the management of the Jamaican booth, said it has been the most popular of the Caribbean pavilion.

The Jamaican journalists here in Shanghai, who are part of a team of media executives and senior journalists on a high-level tour of China, also visited the China, German and Spain pavilions, said to be the most popular. There were also tours of the Brasil, Mexico pavilions, countries with representatives on the China media tour that is organised by the country's State Council Information office.

Barbados, representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, as well as other Caribbean Community have, in the meantime, been using the world expo to showcase their tourism and other products.

Alison Alleyne, representative of the Barbados Tourism Authority, yesterday 'put on a show' as she wined to the playing of calypso music, while at the same time showing visitors how the games of cricket and golf are played. Brochures on Barbados were also readily available.

Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda had its own nationals handing out brochures, flags and pins, and answering questions about the country.

The expo opened in May and will run until October, but it was not clear whether Jamaica will be rolling out its full 'offerings' at a later day.

JTI, in information supplied to the Observer earlier, said that in keeping with the expo's theme of "Better City, Better Life" the Jamaica booth would seek to merge two of the sub-themes; 'Blending of Diverse Cultures in the City' and 'Remodelling of Communities in the City' through a portrayal of Kingston.

The experiential flow of the booth, it said, would showcase Kingston's vibrant and diverse culture, and heritage highlighting Jamaica's central role in the region both as a hub for distribution/logistics through its first-world sea and airport infrastructure and as a hub for creative industries through its innovative and resourceful population emphasising Jamaica's readiness for business and commerce and viability as an investment destination.

The Jamaica booth -- according to the JTI -- among other things would:

* Allow visitors to taste, see and hear Jamaica through culinary exposes, and audio visual representations. Additionally, there will be an athletes section where visitors can 'measure up' with life-size images of Bolt and other Olympic athletes as well as test their reaction speeds against a starter's gun in a 100-metre race simulation.

* Display large-scale images of famous Jamaicans, heritage and popular tourist sites and attractions, highlighting Jamaica's allure as a tourist destination through its natural beauty and cultural diversity as well as attractiveness to investors, which were both delivered.

However, plans for the distribution of various Jamaican souvenirs -- including T-shirts, small craft items, miniature rum, pins, flags and other merchandise -- was not a part of activities at the country's booth yesterday during the visit by Jamaican journalists.

JTI had also promised that Jamaican food and beverage would be a main attraction and commercial solutions around these would be developed, featuring a restaurant and bar.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people continue to flock the expo daily, with Tuesday's attendance alone reaching a record 500,000, and organisers expecting 70 million to visit by October 31, when the show closes.


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