Donnie Dawson Leaves a Legacy of Travel Advisor Advocacy – TravelPulse

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Donnie Dawson, who last month retired as deputy director of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), was a travel advisor supporter years before pandemic-induced disruptions led to a new appreciation for their services.
Dawson’s early appreciation for advisors’ hard work and expertise are his signature legacies, according to the professionals with whom he’s teamed to build Jamaica’s tourism industry.
“Having worked with Jamaica’s national airline and most recently as the owner of a travel agency for 11 years, Donnie’s style of leadership has always been admired,” said Claire Robinson, owner of Clear Skies Travel. 
Ironically, throughout his 40 years in Jamaica’s tourism industry, Dawson contended with analysts’ predictions of advisors’ impending demise, with travelers purportedly abandoning professional retailers for online booking platforms.
“I’ve heard it again and again for 40 years,” Dawson said in a March JTB statement. “The retailers are going to go out of business [because of] the OTAs.”
Nevertheless, “They’re still here, man,” Dawson said. Even Expedia has a program for travel advisors, he noted.
Travel advisors are also at the core of the program with which Dawson is most associated, the 12-year-old Jamaica Travel Specialist course, an agent education module which has “grown beyond expectations,” according to JTB officials.
The program has produced tens of thousands of graduates, officials said, enabling JTB to create a core database of Jamaica sellers. “That to me is probably one of my crowning achievements that I would reflect on,” Dawson said.
Not surprisingly, Dawson’s extensive travel industry connections include advisors whose cite him as a catalyst in their own achievement. “The foresight Donnie had in championing the significance of traditional travel advisors to tourism in Jamaica has had an enormous impact on my personal success,” said Lindsey Johnson, owner of Tropics Travel LLC. 
Dawson has also directly influenced “the success of countless other travel advisors and agencies,” Johnson said.
Dawson’s leadership was most notably on display during the pandemic, during which “he provided such a positive atmosphere and reassurance to all segments of the industry,” said Robinson. “It was easy to see that though the road ahead was temporarily rocky, there would be clear skies ahead.”
Dawson’s four decades as a Jamaica tourism official paralleled the growth of the island’s accommodations sector as room capacity tripled to more than 30,000.
At the same time, he directed efforts to increase Jamaica’s air connectivity (becoming known among colleagues as “Mr. Airlift” in the process).
“Jamaica is deeply indebted to Donnie Dawson for his decades of service to develop and promote tourism to the island,” said Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s minister of tourism.
“He has been a steadfast ambassador throughout the years, dedicated to helping Jamaica become one of the world’s leading tourism destinations. We are truly grateful to him for everything he has accomplished and wish him a very happy retirement.”
Brian Major is Managing Editor for Digital Publications & Guides/Caribbean.

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