Harley-Davidson to offer tours in Ja
Claudia Gardner, Hospitality Jamaica Writer
Another step has been made towards the diversification of Jamaica's tourism product offerings, as the iconic United States motorcycle company, Harley-Davidson, has selected the island as the place of choice to kick-start its tour operations in the Caribbean.
"We're proud to be able to introduce the bike tour to Jamaica for the very first time. We've signed an exclusive deal with Harley-Davidson to grow the motorcycle tour business throughout the Caribbean, so we're excited that we targeted Jamaica as the introductory market for such an exciting venture," chief operating officer at Viking Productions, André Dixon, told Hospitality Jamaica.
"We've focused on offering Harley-Davidson riders a well-organised guided tour on the great open coastal highways that Jamaica now offers. Naturally, we'll have designated off-road rest stops that will allow patrons to interact with Jamaica Tourist Board-authorised businesses and an occasional chat with the real-world vendors of Jamaica," he added.
Dixon said his entity has decided to focus on two "well-orchestrated tour destinations" - a three hour sunrise tour to Discovery Bay in the morning, and a five-hour sunset tour to Negril in the afternoon. Currently, all tours originate at the offices at Whitter Village in Ironshore, Montego Bay.
A fleet of 10 Harley-Davidson motorcycles will be available for the tour - three Fat Boy Lows, one Dyna Glide Wide, one Dyna Street Bob, two Dyna Fat Bobs, one XL1200C Sportster Custom, one Sportster 48 and one Sportster 883. He said all tours will be led by trained Team Jamaica-certified tour guides who were all carefully selected and who were pre-screened and pre-qualified candidates.
"Both tours will offer a stop for lunch while patrons enjoy the ride around the country at a controlled pace in a group setting," he explained. "We're going to offer participants an opportunity to book tours only for a while. We want to understand the dynamics of safety and the capabilities of qualified motorcycle operators before we offer (individual) rental options.
"All participants are required to attend a safety briefing at our facility in Whitter Village before beginning the tour. We discuss the entire route, what to expect in terms of highway conditions, the importance of adhering to defensive driving techniques in Jamaica and the importance of obeying the directions of our tour guides. We also provide a lead car that reports on road conditions ahead of the tour as an added safety precaution," he said.
He said the market for motorcycle tours is lucrative, as many Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners visit the island and would like to experience riding in Jamaica. In 2014, Harley Davidson's dealers sold 267,999 new motorcycles worldwide with full year revenue from the vehicles being $4.39 billion, according to the company's annual report.
"Our competitive analysis studies and market surveys revealed that a large number of Harley-Davdison owners and bike riders in general seek options for riding motorcycles during their vacation. We definitely know that the market for riders is huge, based on brand value and the feedback and inquiries that we've received from affiliated motorcycle clubs around the world. Harley-Davidson controls more than 50 per cent of the motorcycle sales in the US market and the loyalty among its riders is unparalleled when compared to other motorcycle brands. The mystique of riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is something that many riders look forward to," Dixon said.
Harley-Davidson was founded in 1903 by William S. Harley and brothers Arthur and Walter Davidson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Historically, the company, had a longstanding association with the US military. According to historical records, their motorcycles were first used by the US military in 1916, during a conflict with Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa. At the time, the army used Harley-Davidson motorcycles with machine guns mounted in the sidecars, along with their other means of transport.
"The War Department soon ordered a dozen motorcycles directly from Harley-Davidson, and a decades-long partnership began. With the strategic value of motorcycles proven to the military, the War Department relied heavily on Harley-Davidson following the entry of the United States into World War I. In fact, the first American to enter Germany one day following the signing of the armistice was riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. By the end of World War I, about one-half of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles produced from early 1917 to the end of the war had gone to the US military," a document titled Harley Davidson and the US Military, written by Archives manager, Bill Jackson, notes.
As for fostering key linkages with other areas of the Jamaican economy, Dixon has no doubt that the tour will contribute immensely to this.
"Local hotels will have an opportunity to offer our tours as an alternative to seeing Jamaica in a personalised and dynamic way. The transportation sector will be able to boast about the fact that Jamaica has enhanced its offerings by adding genuine Harley-Davidson motorcycles as an option. We want our tour to add value to the overall tourism product in Jamaica. We know that getting tourists to ride our motorcycles as a part of a tour will offer them an opportunity to uniquely connect with the natural environment of Jamaica and the local residents," he said.
The first Harley-Davidson store was opened in Jamaica in November 2006 by owners Anders Vestergaard and Paul Zar. There are two other stores in Negril and Ocho Rios. There are now 16 locations in the Caribbean, including Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas, Roatan, Honduras, St Thomas and St Kitts.