Calls Promote Jamaican Convention Travel

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The Jamaica Tourist Board aims to draw convention business to the island using telemarketing in a lead-generation campaign.


The tourist board shifts strategy with the campaign, having focused historically on promoting Jamaica to vacationers.


"It's the first time Jamaica, as a destination, has put this kind of emphasis on group meetings," said Lephaite Cunningham Jr., vice president of business development at David Green Organization, the marketing firm managing the campaign. "It's an aggressive step for them."


The effort began this month. David Green telemarketers in Chicago are calling 13,000 meeting planners to gauge their interest in holding conventions or meetings at Jamaican hotels. About 4,000 of the names come from among 50,000 contacts at David Green, which specializes in the convention industry. The tourist board provided the rest.


After David Green telemarketers qualify a lead, they turn it over to salespeople at the firm who work with tourist board officials to find a hotel in Jamaica that suits the group's needs. The meetings typically involve 800 to 1,000 attendees.


Groups and associations that have held meetings or conventions in South Florida are the main targets of the telemarketing. Tourist board officials hope these groups are easier to lure to Jamaica, which is near that region.


The board outsourced the telemarketing because its inhouse sales staff was limited in how many prospects it could contact.


Since Sept. 11, many convention planners in the United States, fearing that long travel distances will frighten off attendees, have sought to locate meetings at domestic venues, said Marcia Bullock, manager of groups and conventions at the Jamaica Tourist Board.


Though Bullock doesn't expect conventions to return to Jamaica in force until next year, she thinks it is important to stay visible. Many conventions and meetings are planned months and even years in advance.


"You just have to keep focused and visible, maybe start looking for business in other avenues," she said. "You just hope they remember you when they start moving offshore again."


Along with telemarketing, the board is sending a postcard to 34,000 meeting planners, including those receiving calls. Unlike the telemarketing calls, the postcards focus less on selling Jamaica as a convention destination. Instead, they announce the partnership between the tourist board and David Green.


The postcard aims to use David Green's reputation among meeting planners to garner the interest of those that don't fit the tourist board's target profile, Cunningham said. While Jamaica may not be an obvious choice for these prospects, their prior relationships with David Green may cause them to notice the mailer.


On the back of the postcard is a short message urging prospects to call a toll-free number if they wish to learn more about Jamaica meeting possibilities. Prospects also may use e-mail to reach a sales representative.


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