Jamaica Tourist Board Suspends Ad Campaign Due to Riots

Violence in Kingston Overshadows Relative Safety of Resorts

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Immediately after rioting broke out in Kingston, Jamaica earlier this week the Jamaica Tourist Board decided to shelve its national cable TV campaign in the U.S. until the fighting ends, the board's deputy director said.

A recent ad for the Jamaica Tourist Board featured Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.
A recent ad for the Jamaica Tourist Board featured Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.
Rioting broke out this past Sunday after Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced he would extradite gang leader Christopher Coke to the U.S. where he is wanted on drug and gun-running charges. While Jamaican authorities are still searching for Mr. Coke, more than 70 people have been killed in the rioting.

For a country and people that rely very heavily on the revenue generated from tourism, resorts and the money spent at local shops, the rioting could not have come at a worse time. Donnie Dawson, deputy director of tourism at the Jamaica Tourist Board, said despite the fact that the fighting is taking place away from its biggest vacation spots like Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril, he felt it was best to pull the TV spots.

"We didn't want to have people see images of the rioting in Kingston on the news and then commercials [touting] the beautiful isle of Jamaica right next to it," Mr. Dawson said. "That didn't make a lot of sense so we decided to suspend all advertising right now."

Online marketing continues
Mr. Dawson said the ad buy, which he estimated to be worth $1.6 million, was scheduled to run until mid-June. He said it will continue its marketing efforts online on travel sites and the co-op marketing efforts it currently has with other tour operators.

"Once everything is finished in Kingston we will continue with our TV ads," he said. The board works with Interpublic Group of Cos.' Draftfcb's New York office.

It is doing a minimal amount of outreach to vacationers to reassure them that the country is safe to visit for vacation. Mr. Dawson said it is e-mailing select customers and those that contact them directly for information.

"There is no massive outreach [on our part] happening yet," Mr. Dawson said. "We're getting a certain amount of e-mails, not a whole lot, but once they are reassured that the vacation areas aren't affected they feel comfortable. And we haven't gotten a lot of people saying they aren't going or canceling."

He said there are currently no plans to produce or run any TV spots promoting the safety of the island's vacation spots.

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