Never one to waste an opportunity to market Brand Jamaica, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and his team made a splash in Budapest during the just concluded 2023 World Athletics Championships. The minister expects to see results after Jamaica Product Exchange (Japex) is held in Montego Bay this September. For the first time ever, there will be 17 participants from Budapest at the local tourism sector’s premier trade event.
The hope is that having members of the Hungarian media, travel agents and tour operators at Japex will help the tourism ministry meet its goal of 6,000 visitors from Hungary by 2026. That’s part of a wider push to attract 15,000 from Eastern Europe.
Their participation at the event, planned for the Montego Bay Convention Centre from September 11-13, will build on groundwork laid during the championships.
“I think Jamaica has gotten a big boost from the world games, no doubt, with our names being called every minute of the day and very strong branding from public transport,” Bartlett told the Jamaica Observer’s LetsTravelCaribbean.com on Tuesday. The games wrapped up on Sunday. Jamaica’s athletes did the country proud by raking in 12 medals for fourth place.
During the sporting event, the Jamaica Tourist Board ran hard-to-miss ads that took up the entire back sections of buses. One option showed a woman on a swing accompanied by the words ‘Jamaica, Come Back to Life’. The other featured children playing on the beach, and the words ‘Jamaica, Come Back to Playful’.
“We picked the excursion buses, carrying tourists and commuters alike and were moving all over the city,” explained Bartlett who also did several interviews with major TV stations, alongside meeting with travel agents and tour operators.
There were also billboards in the main centres of Hungary. In addition, there was a push by sections of the private sector that see Hungary as a potentially lucrative market.
“A number of local brands are already being sold in the area. And some of them were there,” said the minister of players in the accommodations niche.
Once these efforts begin to pay off, the plan is to bring visitors from Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Vienna through Germany into Jamaica. They will fly with Condor Airlines, which now offers scheduled charters from Berlin to Montego Bay a few times each week. The expectation is that more routes will be added as demand grows.
While full of praise for the performance of Jamaica’s athletes, Bartlett knows it is not enough. Now the hard work begins to convert eyeballs into heads in beds.
“People need to appreciate that when Jamaica’s name is called or people perform well, that’s just [brand] recognition. The process of getting them to visit Jamaica is a long one. That involves all sorts of infrastructure arrangements including airline arrangements and booking engines to deal with it and also DMCs (destination management companies), tour operators at home in Jamaica too, to be responsible for visitors,” he said.
“It’s a little more than just saying we run well or reggae sounds good. Getting people here is the issue,” he added.