Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 1, 2009
Home : Letters
Letter of the day - JTB misses cricket opportunity

Chris Dehring

The Editor, Sir:

As we prepare to host England in the first Test at Sabina Park next Wednesday, I'm hoping that the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) is all prepared to take advantage of the opportunity that this event brings. Indeed, the JTB has had several years' notice to prepare for this event, and indeed, every Test match in Jamaica for the next 10 years, so I would hope to see a reception for the visiting English and West Indians, similar to the 'village' recently created for the jazz festival. We all recall that two cricket stadia were developed initially to host the Cricket World Cup, but ostensibly to develop this potential events tourism market.

comparison of events

While I have no conceptual difficulty with JTB sponsoring the jazz festival, a comparison of the two events shows that:

(i) JTB paid J$40 million to a private promoter to sponsor jazz and probably millions more to activate that sponsorship. An international test match is being staged in Jamaica without a dollar of sponsorship from the JTB. What a bargain! That means almost every dollar spent could be solely for promotion of the country.

(ii) There was no live international TV coverage of the jazz festival. The audience at the venue in Montego Bay was therefore the entire audience, unlike a Test match at Sabina Park, which is televised live around the world, for five days, to over 100 million homes, including England, India, Egypt, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore, just to name a few regions. It is also televised live in the United States to a cricket-loving niche market of over five million television subscribers. What a great opportunity to start a sports tourism product aimed at the cricket fans in that market.

(iii) International media presence at the jazz festival appeared to be minimal. Next week, at least 25 members of the international media will be here. What they think and write about Jamaica, and in particular Kingston, could help or hurt us. I expect the JTB has an aggressive media management programme planned. The JTB can spend millions on advertising abroad but our image is still hampered by our weakest link - Kingston.

lower turnout

(iv) Visitor attendance for the jazz festival appeared to be less than 1,500 persons this year, but I will wait to hear the final numbers from the JTB. Certainly, the 26,000 that they claim came last year for jazz seems highly overstated in light of this year's attendance, and the fact that Jamaica has about 28,000 hotel rooms in total! Next week for cricket, we should have over 1,500 visitors (12,000 hotel room nights) for the game, the bulk of which will be from the UK. Not a single hotel room is available in Kingston, and I expect JTB will be able to provide us with the surveys done to ascertain visitor attendance after the game.

One can only wonder how many visitors we might have lured had the JTB done any sports tourism marketing at all around the match. Their counterparts in Barbados, Antigua and St Lucia have been doing so for the past 18 months and they are expecting 12-15,000 visitors from the UK for their matches.

The Government has made various pronouncements that they are pursuing events tourism. I still hope they take advantage of a 'low hanging fruit' called cricket, which takes place every year around the same time ... without them having to spend a red cent.

I am, etc.,

CHRIS DEHRING

cdehring@hotmail.com


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