Local tourist attractions, and ultimately destination Jamaica, are being boosted by increased exposure through the American Automobile Association (AAA), says Alan Beckford, General Manager of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA).
While the global economic crisis and a reduction in the country’s tourism marketing budget may impact on arrival figures, more local attractions are now being featured in AAA publications, Mr. Beckford said. This has come about through a partnership arrangement with the JAA that showcases Jamaican tourist attractions.
It is estimated that a majority of the 1.5 million annual visitors to north coast resorts, are members of the international automobile club. “Therefore, information about the island from a reliable source such as the AAA, North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization with more than 50 million members, can make a major difference for attractions,” he opined.
“The programme provides access to a significant network of potential customers,” Mr. Beckford said. “And, the benefit to Jamaican attractions when they were featured in the AAA magazine is priceless.”
Attractions covered by the AAA in November last year included Outameni Experience in Trelawny, the Antique Car show in Kingston and Dolphin Cove in St. Ann. Earlier this year, Mystic Mountain, and Prospect Plantation were featured, along with TGI Friday’s and La Pluma Negra. Up next to be featured by the AAA are Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, along with Tranquility Cove in St. Ann.
The attractions selected are all participants in the JAA’s show your card ‘Show Your Card & Save’ (SYC&S) promotion, a joint initiative with the AAA. More than 200 local businesses participate in the discount programme, David Mullings, Manager of E-Channels and Discount Business, who has responsibility for the SYC&S Programme, state.
‘Show Your Card & Save’ allow JAA members to capitalise on special rates from local and international discount partners. Members can receive discounts from more than 155,000 merchants in some 45 countries.
The programme is conducted through the JAA’s link with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, an international association of automobile clubs in which the AAA is a participant. Member countries are promoted as travel destinations through globally distributed magazines, flyers, and web casts.
In addition to tourism products, JAA club members can also capitalise on discount gift items, clothing, appliances, and a range of other consumer goods provided by merchants. Additionally, savings ranging from 5 to 12 percent are offered by motor insurance companies.
Mr. Mullings noted that in today’s global travel environment, being part of a worldwide network which the JAA facilitates has tremendous benefits for participating merchants and club members. This is particularly important in the current economic environment.
The official government spending on promoting tourism increased in nominal terms last year, although there was a cut in real terms, when inflation is taken into consideration. For this year, the provision for the overseas marketing has been reduced from US$1.5 billion to $800 million for the current year.
This reduction comes despite a regional downturn in the industry, which has been escaped by only Jamaica and Cuba among major destinations. Although the Jamaican industry showed an overall 2 percent growth between December 15 and April 21, the global economic fallout resulted in declines in arrivals from the region’s prime markets in the United States and Europe.
In his April Budget Presentation, Prime Minister Bruce Golding congratulated Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett for “swimming against the tide” in difficult market conditions last year. He said, “The conditions will be no less daunting this year.”
The regional tourism sector is now tackling a global recession; and the April hijacking in Montego Bay, as well as the influenza outbreak in Mexico, cause real concern in what is traditionally a fragile market, Mr. Beckford stated. “With the Jamaica and Cuba being the only regional tourism destinations bucking the overall industry decline, the sector needs all the help it can get.”