Q & A with Gregory Shervington, Regional Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board for Europe
By José Carlos de Santiago
Gregory Shervington has been at the helm of the Jamaica Tourist Board’s Europe Division -headquartered in Berlin- since April 2014. His office attends both OTDYKH and MITT -by far Russia’s two most important travel fairs- because in those two tradeshows the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) has the possibility of organizing longstanding events in a bid to create awareness.
This time around, he was attending OTDYKH 2019 in Moscow and sat down with Mr. José Carlos de Santiago, president and editor-in-chief of the Excelencias Group, for an exclusive interview for Caribbean News Digital, the Madrid-based company’s online newspaper.
“Our presence in those two fairs is important because we can meet behind the scenes with our partners in Russia. So, while we’re here, we’re doing a lot of things, inside and outside, in and around the fair. For us it’s important to have a visual presence, especially for the European market, which is strong and we want to continue strengthening even more,” Mr. Shervington told Caribbean News Digital.
In the particular case of the Russian market, Jamaica is regaining strength and a charter flight started again last year, a service that had stopped in 2014 and now resumed in October last year. In 2018, Jamaica welcomed over 4,000 Russian sunbathers, a far cry from the 13,000 the island nation used to reel in back in 2013 and 2014.
As far as other European markets are concerned, Mr. Shervington explains that Spain chips in under 9,000 visitors every year, a figure that remains aloof from the 17,000 Jamaica used to draw in 2007. In the case of Portugal, there’s a summertime charter flight from Portugal that contributes a good number of Portuguese travelers.
Asked whether the presence of Spanish hotel companies in Jamaica making Russian tourists turn more to all-inclusive services, Mr. Shervington said that in terms of the Russian market, all-inclusive hotels tend to be more attractive. Properties run by such companies as RIU and Iberostar tend to be very strong in some areas of Jamaica. Those are indeed strong brands.
Blue Diamond is opening new resorts in Jamaica, with a new property slated to be inaugurated in November, a move that underscores the significance of the Canadian market for Jamaica. “Canada is a very strong market for us, second best to the U.S. Jamaica receives well over half a million Canadians every year. They have also brought in airlines, like Sunwing,” the JTB top executive pointed out.
FITUR, the International Tourism Fair held in Madrid, is of paramount importance for Jamaica. As Mr. Shervington explains, “FITUR gives us the possibility of visiting hotel owners and partners in one specific location, and it’s also the time to engage in discussions about future developments coming from European countries, but mainly from Spain. No one invests in Jamaica more than Spain in terms of hotel developments. So, FITUR is quite an opportunity to meet everybody.”
Gastronomy Tourism in Jamaica
“Gastronomy is very important to us because Jamaica is expanding in terms of its culture and cuisine is part of our culture. In addition to our music, our beverages and rums are great and for that reason we’re now exploring new niches in that sense. We’re also opening new culinary trails that underline the importance of gastronomy for Jamaica.
With the Dominican Republic and Cuba holding the top Ibero-American titles in terms of gastronomy and cocktails -the Dominican Republic for two years in a row- Mr. Shervington was asked whether Jamaica could aspire to be the recipient of any of those two recognitions.
“Jamaica could very positively be the capital of gastronomy. UNESCO has designated Kingston as the Entertainment Capital of the World. So, when people come to Jamaica in search of its music and entertainment, they simply have to eat and they can then explore the various options that exist,” Mr. Shervington said.
“Over the years, we have increased the number of food festivals on the island, including all the various regions we have. In October, there’s a gastronomy festival in Kingston, and that will certainly be an opportunity to put the island nation on the spotlight,” he went on to explain.