At the Chinese Tourists Welcoming (CTW) Awards held in Beijing on April 22, earlier this year, 19 destinations and companies from around the world were presented with awards for providing excellent services and products for the growing outbound tourism market from China.
Winners came from Finland, Switzerland, the UK, Tanzania, Jamaica, Mexico, the USA, Dubai, South Africa, Thailand, Portugal, Austria, and China.
As a judge for these awards, I was fortunate to read and study each CTW award application, and one in particular stood out – that from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).
JTB ended up winning the Gold Award for Service Quality at this year’s event having won the Gold Award for Internet & Media at the 2008 event, an outstanding achievement indeed!
Outstanding, because only in 2005, did Jamaica gain Approved Destination Status from China. Not long after, JTB identified that their biggest challenge to attracting Chinese tourists was that Chinese people hardly knew anything about Jamaica, its location, and its potential as a destination for travel.
Since then, JTB has strategically invested in enlisting help, advice, and expertise from experienced people and organizations who understood China well, Chinese people, Chinese culture, Chinese consumer behavior, China travel markets, their unique service expectations, doing business in China, and very importantly, the growing interest and usage of the Internet in China.
For example, JTB enlisted the China Business Network (CBN), which specializes in providing foreign businesses with consulting services and marketing activities in China. JTB commissioned CBN to develop its Chinese web site www.visitjamaica.com.cn with the purpose of raising the awareness of Jamaica among the travel trade, as well as would-be travelers throughout China.
CBN achieved this by positioning JTB’s Chinese web site on the “China Wide Web,” a China-wide on-line information service system based in the Chinese language, utilizing state-of-the art Internet and Intranet technology to deliver the latest sought-after information and exclusive market intelligence to targeted subscribers.
CBN also assisted JTB by advising on booth positioning at trade fairs and exhibitions in China, as well as giving continuous language support from their multi-lingual staff. Furthermore, all JTB collateral materials were printed in Chinese, an absolute must-do activity when presenting or exhibiting in China.
Well-supported tourism events in China, which JTB participated in, were the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market (COTTM) in Beijing and the China International Travel Mart (CITM) in Kunming.
JTB connected with and built relationships with influential news media in China ensuring continuous reports, and press releases about Jamaica as a destination were being published. JTB also held special events and PR activities in China, such as “Jamaica in China Week” to build presence and gain exposure among the travel trade in China and Chinese consumers.
JTB has strategically used both Chinese and Jamaican celebrities for events and famils in both countries to generate media and public interest. For example, Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt met top Chinese tour operators in China to showcase Jamaica as, “the home country of the world’s fastest man!”
Another example was when JTB organized for Ciu Jian, known as the Godfather of rock music in China, to visit Jamaica along with 10 top key tour operators from China, at the same time as an official government delegation from China including the Chinese Vice-President was visiting the Carribean nation. Again, the focus was on gaining positive exposure and attention for Jamaica as a destination for Chinese travelers – an ongoing activity.
In order to educate suppliers and stakeholders within the Jamaican tourism industry itself, a China Outbound Workshop was held where guest speakers included China experts Dr. Adam Wu from the China Business Network and Professor Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt from the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI).
The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) has just announced that another nine nations have been granted Approved Destination Status, these being the United Arab Emirates, Guyana, Ecuador, Dominic, Mali, Cape Verde, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, and Montenegro.
These countries could do well to study the path of Jamaica and its national tourist board, its strategy to utilize professional expertise, its ongoing focus on building and maintaining positive relationships with China, its government, its travel trade and media, and its desire to understand and look after Chinese tourists. As Confucius once stated, “Study the past if you would define the future.”