- by travelpulse
- 28 Mar 2023
After 20 years as Deputy Director of Tourism for the Americas for the Jamaica Tourist Board - and 20 years before that as a California-based regional manager - Donnie Dawson has announced that he will retire later this year.
TravelPulse Canada caught up with the familiar figure to discuss his accomplishments, memories and future plans.
"When I went out to California, the western part of North America didn't know much about the Caribbean and Jamaica in particular," Dawson said. "We started out with some charter flights, but when we were able to launch Air Jamaica flights from Los Angeles to Montego Bay, that was one of the proudest moments of my career."
The tourism industry in the Caribbean is entirely dependent on convincing airlines to offer flights - and then convincing travellers to get onboard. So the fact that Dawson earned the nickname of "Mr. Airlift" among colleagues also gives him a lot of pride."
"Without lift, destinations can't grow. Now, from the U.S. alone, we have 22 gateways for flights to Jamaica."
Dawson says Canada "was always a challenge," but he's proud of the growth that saw the island welcome over 400,000 Canadians annually pre-pandemic. He's sure that number would be over 500,000 if not for the COVID disruption.
When Dawson started with the JTB as a young man, Jamaica's tourism product was much different. "There were no all-inclusives, no one knew what an all-inclusive was. It started with properties like Negril Beach Village, that used a Club Med-style approach, with shark's teeth instead of beads.
As of April 1, tourists will no longer need a COVID-19 vaccination to visit.read more