A job well done | News – Jamaica Gleaner

Jamaica’s deputy director of tourism for the Americas, Donald Dawson, has stepped down from managing the lion’s share of Jamaica’s tourism fortunes worldwide. Donnie Dawson, as he is called in tourist industry circles contributed over 44 years to the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). Over the decades, Dawson earned the unwavering respect of industry partners far and wide, and last week he was lauded at a send-off reception in Miami for overseeing the astonishing growth of Jamaica’s biggest markets – The United States, Canada, and to a lesser extent, Central and South America.
“He has been the consummate ambassador of distinction for destination Jamaica throughout the years,” Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett stated. “ Jamaica is deeply indebted to Donnie for his decades of service in developing and promoting Jamaica to make it one of the world’s leading destinations,” Minister Bartlett added.
Dawson’s epic journey in tourism began almost by accident, at the iconic tourism pink building on Harbour Street, next to Air Jamaica’s headquarters in 1975. He was looking for a job and his mother ran into then tourism director, Anthony Abrahams, whom she asked about employment opportunities at the JTB for her son. Donnie was interviewed, landed a job in sales, and the rest is history.
Dawson attributes much of his success in the industry to his impeccable work ethic. “I delivered on everything that I promised,” he revealed. “I listened to and learned from some of the best people in the business. I was never afraid to champion ideas that I was passionate about. I was dispatched to Los Angeles to introduce Jamaica to the western United States and the efforts paid off hugely, opening the door for Jamaica to start non-stop air service from Los Angeles to Montego Bay.”
Not every day was postcard-perfect during Dawson’s tenure at the (JTB). He had to confront some of the biggest challenges to face the industry, including Hurricane Gilbert that wiped out Jamaica’s tourism infrastructure, the 9/11 terrorist attack that shut down travel, and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. In each episode of crisis, Dawson’s resilience, strategic vision and steely resolve enabled him to skilfully guide his team back to dominance in the marketplace.
Dawson has also seen dramatic changes in the industry over the years. “Forty odd years ago there were no all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica. Jonkonno Lounge was jumping in Kingston, and Montego Bay and Ocho Rios were alive with restaurants and nightclubs. Banana Boat Club, Ispo Facto, the Cave at Seawind, Footprints and Disco Inferno to name a few. Visitors walked around freely with no harassment and Jamaicans could walk into any hotel for drinks and dinner,” he reminisced,”It was an entirely different vibe back then.”
The retiring deputy director credits a number of early influencers for providing him with the oxygen to rise to the top. Among them, Harry Knowles, a JTB executive, who he said taught him the nuts and bolts of the industry. He also gave glowing mentions to Marianne Steele, his first manager in Miami, and Tony Santana, the owner and CEO of Suntrips, who taught him about charters and the airline business. He also sees his current staff as a priceless treasure, and he often goes out of the way to address every worry and concern so as to keep his sales and marketing team optimally motivated.
So what’s Dawson’s word of advice to the next generation of career travel executives? “Be honest, be transparent and never be afraid to speak up, good or bad. The travel business is built on relationships, so nurture those with integrity,” he advised.
“We are truly saddened to see Donnie go as his passion and drive helped to cement Jamaica’s strong presence in the marketplace,” director of tourism, Donovan Whyte, told the send-off gathering.
For his part, Dawson said it was a fantastic journey. “My one regret is not stopping to smell the roses. And one of the moments of great joy was certainly meeting my wife of 40 years in the travel business,” he said in retrospect.
View the discussion thread.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top