Friday, March 20, 2009

Sport to put Jamaican tourism in sprint mode

The stage was set at the recently concluded 33rd running of the Gibson Relays in Kingston. 14 records were broken and Jamaica has once again sent a message that there are more world beaters to come from this little rock.
The discussion is continuing about the country’s ability to churn out athletes year after year who continue to stun the world with credible and excellent performances and this year 2009 will be no different. The good thing about this is the pool is widening so there are a lot more athletes to choose from. Come June 2009 when the National Championships is over to choose the athletes to compete in the World Athletic Championships in Berlin, Jamaica should have a strong delegation.
The Diaspora should see themselves as part of this preparation by coming to Jamaica to witness the spectacular performances at a number of events this year:
1. Boys and Girls Championships – April 1 – 4
2. Jamaica Invitational – May 2
3. World Championship Volleyball Qualifier – May
4. National Track and Field Championships – June
There are a number of good options for sport; but we can collaborate with the theatre and music communities to see what plays and music shows will be on at that time and prepare a package for locals and visitors alike.
Studies have shown that people who generally love sports are the same ones who are likely to enjoy a good entertainment package, so I am urging organizers of these events to look to engaging visitors to come to REDISCOVER Jamaica around some of these dates. Reasonable air fares are now being advertised during these periods, so what more can we ask for.
I know there may be a bias towards the track and field events, but there are a number of activities we can think about which can be exciting enough to draw attention and certainly the visitors. Out west the Reggae Sumfest is on the calendar for July. So the attractions should benefit from these events. All I ask is that the proper packaging be done, so no area of the tourism gets left out.
The physical layout of the attractions, events and the warmth and hospitality of the Jamaican people are the most valuable assets; so I am urging us to take the advantage. Remember, in times of crisis, there is always a place for creativity and innovation (new ideas) which can emerge as a sustainable programme in years to come.

West Indies vs. England
I know the English men came to the Caribbean expecting little or no resistance from the West Indies; but what a wake up call they got. Cricket has once again proven to be a good sport tourism product and the Caribbean was the better off for it. So now that the tests are over, it is now on to the One Day Internationals and 20-20 matches.

Unofficial figures are showing that with each test the visitor number climbed, with Jamaica at the bottom of the table. If we do not fix the crime situation we are still going to be lagging behind our neighbours. We obviously have the best facilities and package to offer. Fix it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sport Tourism and Spring Break

Sports tourism and spring break

By now most destinations would have had their spring break plans in place and are hoping for higher numbers in visitor arrivals for this part of the winter tourist season.

Once Ash Wednesday passes, we know spring break is near. Entertainment is vital to this period, but I daresay we should, and must, include sport this time around to attract a different crowd to add to the already stressed college students who just want to have a great time on a tropical isle.

traditional sporting competitions

The real deal is the traditional sporting competitions may not work for spring breakers, but I am sure they will climb a rock for a margarita, or they would row a canoe across the ocean for a weekend for two, maybe even swim a channel or ride a five-mile distance. One thing is sure: They would apply physical skills while having fun and capturing a major prize, which has to be exciting.

What I also know is that these activities are done at individual properties, but I am advocating for these skill competitions to be done under the Jamaica Tourist Board banner and marketed as destination activity.

This would help to alleviate the stigma attached to spring break, which now seems to be boobs and booze. In addition to attracting just the MTV, BET-type stations, ESPN could be an outlet for the more sport oriented type of activity.

How about looking at a Brand Jamaica Strongest Man competition 'live' from Montego Bay, Jamaica? Now wouldn't that be something?

Another great idea would be to invite a professional team from the US or UK here for training for spring break. Major League baseball starts in the US on April 6 this year, so for next year, let's look at one of those teams which are located in one of the colder cities and have them here for a spring break practice session for a few days.

Let's take the Chicago White Sox, for example, a divisional champion of 2008. There are direct flights from Chicago; it gets very cold there and it is Obama's city. Just imagine the media attention the trip would make.

special invitations

We could work on the invitation immediately. Jamaica also has great ties with that city, so it may not be too difficult to get that arrangement going.

Some major cities across the US have not marketed their destination as a spring break attraction. Broward County in Florida, for example has suggested that "dropping spring break since 1986 has seen an increase from half a million to 10.8 million in 2008, over 20 years."

Jamaica, therefore, has to drive the demand for its new clientele by creating the products which are in demand.

Note: A campaign to plan for 2010 'Discover Jamaica for Spring Break 2010': Use our schools as an exercise in knowing our own country and then invite the world to do same.