Jamaica | Mar 16, 2023

Donnie Dawson to retire after 40 years at JTB

/ Our Today

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Will still serve in an advisory capacity

Donnie Dawson, deputy director of tourism.

After 20 years as deputy director of tourism for the Americas at the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), and 20 years before that as a California-based regional manager, Donnie Dawson has announced his retirement.

He will retire later this year.

TravelPulse Canada caught up with the familiar figure, often called Mr Airlift, to discuss his accomplishments, memories and future plans.

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 gives him a lot of pride.

“Without lift, destinations can’t grow. Now, from the US alone, we have 22 gateways for flights to Jamaica,” Dawson told TravelPulse Canada.

Opening up the Canadian market

Dawson acknowledged that Canada “was always a challenge”, but that he’s proud of the growth that saw the island welcome more than 400,000 Canadians annually pre-pandemic. He is sure that number would be over 500,000 if not for the COVID disruption.

“I’m going to play a lot of golf, take some rest time, but I want to keep active and I’m open to be an advisor. I’ll be around.”

Donnie Dawson

Dawson said that, despite his retirement later this year, he’s “still got some gas in the tank,” and will likely offer the wisdom gained by experience on an advisory basis.

“I’m going to play a lot of golf, take some rest time, but I want to keep active and I’m open to be an advisor. I’ll be around,” Dawson remarked.

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,” he explained.

Then Couples Resorts came along, then Sandals… and the rest is history, with Jamaica now positioned as an all-inclusive leader.

“During my time we’ve gone from 10,000 rooms to more than 30,000, with lots more to come,” Dawson said.

Praises heaped on Dawson

“Donnie has been a valued friend, colleague and mentor since I first joined the JTB as Canada’s regional director in 2019,” said Angella Bennett, who continues in that role.

For her, “he (Donnie) has brought an immense amount of passion and energy to his work with the JTB over the years, taking great pride in driving Jamaica’s tourism industry and growing the island’s profile on the world stage”.

Bennett addedthat Dawson has always supported and appreciated the role of travel agents.

For her, “throughout his career, Donnie has been a champion for Canada’s hardworking travel advisors and has always made a special effort to recognise and celebrate the integral role our agents play in Jamaica’s ongoing success. Donnie will be greatly missed by myself and all of his JTB colleagues in Canada. We wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement.” 


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