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Tech know - Tourism in more trouble - how the Net and Technology can help


By Ingrid Riley, Contributor

JUST AS the US economy was headed for recession prior to the September 11 tragedy, so too was Jamaica's tourism in a state of serious stagnation. The US tragedy simply pushed us over the edge and further exposed our flawed theories and practices, as well as the potential we have.

For a long while we've paid more lip service than elbow grease to the idea of further diversifying our tourism product, to find, fund and truly support initiatives that sought to develop lucrative niches. Instead we continued to throw advertising money in a bid to woo more American tourists ­ the closeness, size and ease of accessing the American market made us complacent. Maintaining the status quo of the same kind of tourist coming for the same kind of tourism product. It seemed as if we'd ran out of ideas, or simply we were not fearless enough to risk a little and try new ones. So our product grew stale and homogeneous while we were busy worrying ourselves about being toppled by Cuba and formed new boards and committees to probe the matter. In the meantime, great ideas remained unfulfilled and unique ways of marketing them lay idle.

The Internet is such an awesome distribution, marketing and communications tool and we've so far not used it and it's attendant technologies to our country's tourism benefit as should have. While the end result is to have more people coming to Jamaica, spending more time, spending more money and coming again, the vehicle is putting the best of us in the marketplace. We claim to be more than sand and sea, but that seems to be most of what we're putting of ourselves in the marketplace.

It has been great to see many villas, hotels and attractions on-line with their websites ­ the question is, what have they done to their sites lately and how have they used their sites as part of the marketing mix to win more business, new business and keep repeat business.

Why aren't we using our Jamaican Web3d technology experts to create and offer virtual tours on-line of our major attractions, ­ brochures and the One Love TV commercial are nice, but a virtual tour is pretty potent. How about being able to visit a virtual exhibition mounted by the Institute of Jamaica on-line and for a fee.

Kingston is great destination, we just need fresh eyes on the case, people who see it with less jaded eyes and know how to package it all. It's been great to see some new events being added to our calendar like Jamaica Spice Food Festival and the Jerk festivals. So how about the local artist community creating an island wide Open Studio, pitched as a once a year opportunity to buy unique and diverse Jamaican art and meet with the artist themselves, create a map of studios island wide, market it on-line with a downloadable map and all. San Francisco does it and it works very well.

I think we need to get away from the idea of trying to centralise new initiatives and focus on creating an environment that will make ideas thrive in a bid to try and centralise new initiatives. Mavericks such as iriefm.net, downsoundrecords.com, the Jamerican Film Festival, Calabash International Literary Festival, are already out on-line and using technologies like streaming media to make tourists fall in love with our arts and culture and want to come here. You see, we do have the web design, web marketing, Web3d, streaming media, ebusiness experts right here.

Add to that, faster and further competition coming to the telecom market and banks finally moving towards e-commerce, fresh eyes working on the challenge, fully use the Net and it's technologies, we can kick start our tourism product again.

Ingrid Riley is a writer, and CEO of MiND FULL Press, the premier source for Caribbean Tech News and Information. She is active in the Caribbean's hi-tech and business communities. Send comments to her at ingridriley@yahoo.com.

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