After checking into my hotel, like many tourists, one of the first things I do is reach for the maps and guides in the lobby to find my bearings and check out the local scene. But more often than not, these publications reveal a sea of advertising rather than genuine recommendations, leaving me uninspired.
My personal experience isn’t a one off. Having conducted customer research in Jamaica’s Montego Bay, the Travel Foundation discovered that a lack of quality information was a barrier to tourists leaving their hotels and independently exploring the resort. In addition, 59% of tourists claimed their hotels provided all they needed and therefore they didn’t need to leave – but what if they are missing some amazing experiences?
Why get out?
Visitors getting to know the local area are more likely to spend their money with small businesses and traders which boosts the local economy. What’s more, it’s likely to give them a more authentic holiday experience. International tourism trends are showing a shift from the traditional ‘sun, sea and sand’ towards interactive, experiential tourism – gastronomy, nature, heritage and cultural experiences. So, it’s becoming increasingly important for Jamaica to position itself to these markets and ensure visitors get the experience they come for.
Local bar owner, Jason Russell explains in his own words, the vibe of the place and why ‘you’ll be doing yourself an injustice if you don’t go out and explore Mo Bay.’
Back to the drawing board…
Using our expertise in community engagement, we delivered a TUI Care Foundation (TCF) initiative to re-design how visitor information is produced and disseminated.
Using TUI volunteers, we interviewed everyone from local university lecturers and policemen, to stallholders, artists and chefs to find out what makes Montego Bay so special. These meetings were an eye-opener to the real “Mo-Bay.” By really listening to the local community, we were able to unlock the best the resort has to offer as well as capturing practicalities that only ‘insiders’ know about.
Our new pocket guide and map, featuring local top tips, is now being disseminated by resort hotels and supports a larger campaign, ‘Warm Welcome,’ which is providing training and support to taxi drivers, frontline hotel staff and District Constables to enable them to impart their local knowledge to tourists. Rather than being a one-off publication, we are taking a holistic approach to deliver a suite of engagement and training tools to promote the area. I’d like to give special thanks to our partners Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) who have been instrumental in the success of Warm Welcome campaign and will be championing this model of engagement for other resorts in Jamaica.