The tourism and hospitality industry plays a major role in the Jamaican economy. Last year, tourism represented 11 percent of GDP, providing some $1.3 trillion in revenue and recognising 1.4 billion international visitors. The occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, put an inevitable dent in profits for hotels, villas, tour guides, and other businesses dependent on the hospitality industry to thrive. With tighter restrictions on travel, and possible banning of foreigners visiting at any given time due to the spike in cases, the Jamaican hospitality industry has to now pivot and shift marketing strategies to attract locals to stay afloat.
More than ever, staycations are being promoted and Jamaicans are being urged to “rediscover Jamaica” as a place to vacation and explore. Yet to thrive, the Jamaican hospitality industry must find creative ways to be profitable. The onset of Covid-19 and the rise of social media, (as of January 2020, according to HootSuite’s Digital 2020 Report that cites trends, internet and social media data, the total number of Jamaicans who are active social media users is 1.3 million.) means traditional advertising needs to shift budgets to make way for online marketing and this should include Influencers for product mentions and endorsements.
Embracing Influencer Marketing
An influencer from a marketing perspective is: “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.” By hoteliers embracing the local bloggers and creators they bring a unique perspective and Jamaicans follow and admire their contemporaries enjoying our beautiful island.
Bloggers and YouTubers
“A blogger by definition is a person who regularly writes material for a blog which is hosted on a website. Usually focused on a particular niche, whether that be food, travel or lifestyle.” says Kesi Gardner, the Chief Storyteller of The Storyteller Agency. Co and founder of Love Not Likes, a content creator platform. “The benefit of using a blog is that it will show up in Google search unlike on Instagram which is limited in terms of search. A blog is also forever and will come up on the first or second page of Google if SEO is used correctly.”
“As the second most visited social media platform in Jamaica according to HootSuite’s report, using YouTubers has a great benefit within the market,” says Kesi. “YouTubers also have their subscribers and they are very invested in their lives. Our strategy is always to look for out-of-the-box ways to showcase an attraction. In the US, brand-sponsored trips are a standard and we want to make that the norm locally as well.”
“For us it’s more than just taking a pretty picture. Our approach is always robust, combining mega and micro-Influencers, local content creators, YouTubers and bloggers, to bring your brand story to life and showcase the very best of the attraction or villa/hotel. In the past year, we’ve worked with Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival, Worthy Park Estate Rum Tour, Joy Spence’s Appleton Estate Rum Tour, non-profit Kingston Creative to showcase their Art Walk activities and Ministry of Culture, Gender and Sport to promote the activities for Reggae Month.”
“Last year for International Rum Day, Worthy Park Estate Rum Tour invited a group of 12 bloggers from Love Not Likes to visit the tour and received more than 100,000 impressions on Instagram on the commemorative day. After the visit, each blogger wrote their own review and they received over 500 reads on their blogs collectively.” she said.
To target a new local audience means a local voice is needed. Jamaicans are ready to rediscover their island, find hidden gems, and staycation in hotels and villas, but they want to learn about it from a local consumer perspective. Local bloggers can show them the way, where to find the best deals, the hidden gems, stir off the beaten path and patronize the smaller establishments who need support the most at this time. More and more, local consumers want real-life reviews of the hotel/villa and attraction experience from the ambiance, quality of service to amenities. And they want it from people they trust, many of whom are the influencers they follow on social media.
Building awareness for brands using the art of storytelling
The Storyteller Agency.Co. has partnered with several local hotels, restaurants, villas and attractions to connect with Jamaicans through the use of Influencers and local creators in the past year. By using creators who are travel-centric and like to share their honest experiences, you can have a deeper connection with your target audience through their eyes. These influencers share their life through the art of storytelling and their followers are invested in those stories.
For instance, Jamaican YouTuber Annesha Adams (who has more than 40,000 subscribers) visited Lashings Boutique Hotel in Treasure Beach and received more than 10,000 views in 24hrs with more than 200 comments on her hotel review. In her video, which now has more than 25,000 views, she shares her honest opinion of the hotel, details about amenities, local fare and price range.
“Since moving back home to Jamaica from Canada two years ago, I’ve wanted to showcase the very best of the island. From the best attractions to visit in every parish to even the not so popular places, I always share with my subscribers the real life perspective of living in Jamaica. St. Elizabeth is one of my favourite parishes and I liked Lashings Boutique Hotel’s aesthetic and wanted to show my subscribers a different side of Jamaica. Not just the touristy side but the relaxed side as well.” says Annesha.
“We’re very happy to have partnered with The Storyteller Agency. Co and Annesha Adams,” says David Folb, owner of Lashing Boutique and Villas. “We’ll be using them again when we have our official launch of our new Beach Club in Treasure Beach later this month.” he says.
“I’m really aware that some Jamaicans don’t like the all inclusive experience you get in the main resorts, so I have been keen to offer something different. Our hotel and villas offer a more ‘grown up’ approach to tourism – with an authentic Jamaican experience which doesn’t patronise or exploit. It’s also something more interesting for bloggers to write about or create videos around – beyond the standard bikini shots!”
After a group of influencers curated by The Storyteller Agency. Co visited Turtles’ Nest earlier this month, the Treasure Beach villa’s Instagram followers grew by more than 500 followers in 24 hours. Lucy Atherton, the owner, said: “We’re pretty much booked out until Christmas now, it’s been quite amazing for us. I just took a view early on in the pandemic that I would focus entirely on the Jamaican market and that using influencers was the quickest and most effective way to do this. I’m always as generous as I can be to bloggers who stay and I rarely say ‘no’ – so it’s really paid off.
“With the help of Instagram and its influencers, Jamaicans in general are rediscovering a love for their beautiful country, at a time when it’s very difficult to travel abroad. The south coast, which has been largely ignored as a staycation option in the past, is now really benefiting from this.”
Sustaining Profitability for the Hospitality Industry in a Covid-19 world
The way the Jamaican Tourism and Hospitality industry targets local tourists must expand. Incentivizing creators to promote the local hospitality industry so that they can be encouraged, off-the-beaten-path villas using diverse local content creators (e.g. bloggers and YouTubers), as well as innovating online are a few ways to pivot. Using platforms like The Storyteller Agency. Co to match influencers with the target demographic to create organic-driven online and influencer campaigns are key to surviving and finding new patrons.