With 2012 marking the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, thousands of appointments between hundreds of buyers and suppliers were scheduled throughout JAPEX 2012 which took place Sept. 29 through to Oct. 2 and was hosted at the Sunset Grande Resort & Spa in Ocho Rios. The 3,000-plus appointments represented a 29 per cent increase over JAPEX 2011.
The annual trade show is hosted by the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) in conjunction with the Jamaica Tourism Board.
The 2012 edition of the annual conference reported 701 delegates in attendance with participation from Canada, the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the U.K., Germany, Spain and other Caribbean destinations.
There were a total of 370 supplier delegates in attendance, which included hoteliers, attraction operators, ground transportation companies and more.
For the second consecutive year, JAPEX collaborated with trade and investment agency JAMPRO in order to place a greater emphasis on leisure and business aspects of Jamaica’s tourism product. The collaboration brought in an additional 68 local buyers to meet with suppliers of goods and services to the hospitality and tourism industry, including beds, jewellery, ceramics, clothing and more.
“It is of importance to the travel trade that Brand Jamaica remains strong,” commented Wykeham McNeill, minister of tourism & entertainment, Jamaica.
Still Strong, Despite Recession
|Wykenham McNeill, minsiter of tourism & entertainment, Jamaica
All indications from the conference were that Jamaica continues to hold its own as a favourite Caribbean destination.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 29 of this year, nearly 1.5 million people have visited the destination, an increase of nearly three per cent over the same period in 2011. Meanwhile, preliminary estimates indicate that 2012 will experience the best September for stop over visitors in its history, as it was on pace for a six per cent increase for the month compared to 2011.
“In the current recessionary period, Jamaica’s prospects remain robust. With the summer season now behind us and the winter tourist season fast approaching, I am pleased to report that the sector continues to grow despite the harsh conditions,” said McNeill.
“Clearly there is a healthy demand for the destination and I am pleased to say that Jamaica has in place adequate airlift to enable us to achieve our performance targets, thereby placing the destination in a very comfortable position to achieve further growth this year. Nevertheless, we continue with negotiations that will further improve our level of comfort in this regard.”
“Our tourism sector continues to flourish and the investment prospects for the industry look good, as there are several hotels which are planning to expand, while other hotel chains will be constructing new properties in the near future,” McNeill said during his address at the JAPEX 2012 opening ceremonies.
Over the course of the next few years, Jamaica expects to add an additional 2,000 rooms, according to the minister of tourism.
Marriot International will be investing, through its Courtyard by Marriot brand, an additional 130 rooms in Kingston; Baha Principe currently has 70 rooms under construction and has indicated its intentions to further expand; The Fiesta Group will be expanding with the addition of 850 rooms; the construction of the RIU Palace in Mahone Bay will add 232 rooms; and Sunwing’s acquisition of the former SuperClubs’ property Trelawny Beach Hotel will re-open as the Memories White Sands Beach Resort & Spa, with “major plans to construct additional rooms,” as well as a themed water park on the property adjacent to the hotel.
In addition, McNeill said that strong investor interest has been shown in the former Grande Lido Braco property in Trelawny and discussions concerning the property will likely begin soon.
Jamaica’s Tourism Infrastructure
Jamaica is currently in the process of connecting a highway between the north and south coast of the island.
The minister described the project as “advanced” and said it will render the north coast more easily accessible to the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
Cruising to Jamaica
Well positioned between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Falmouth Bay has come into its own as one of the Caribbean’s premiere ports since its official opening in May 2011. Thus far, the two-berth port has experienced a dramatic increase of 62.6 per cent in arrivals.
McNeill informed that the Port Authority of Jamaica has now embarked on a program to brand or re-brand all of the destination's cruise ports.
The branding of “Eden Meets the Ocean” has been decided on for Ocho Rios.
Total cruise arrivals have increased by 33.9 per cent with 937,343 visitors, compared to the 700,137 visitors recorded over the same period last year.
Canadians Should Book Jamaica Early
Canadian tourism growth to the destination continues year-over-year and TRAVELHotNews.com caught up with Philip Rose, director, JTB, Canada, to find out the trends and changes the Canadian market is experiencing and can expect to experience for the coming winter season.
|Philip Rose, director, JTB - Canada
“There are some changes pertaining to flights that have taken place. Some companies have had to reduce their lift while some companies have increased their lift. All in all, it is almost a balance," Rose said.
"What I am encouraging the Canadian travellers to do is start booking their trips early. Don’t be left out in the cold. Because, quite frankly, we may not have enough seats for the expansive growth that we have experienced in the past few years,” Rose added. “The bookings are already coming fast and furious. September bookings are coming in at a higher rate already than any other year."
Rose also alluded to the fact that the normal travel window for Canadians visiting Jamaica is expanding.
“Gone are the days when we are limiting the arrivals from Canada to just the winter season,” he said. “Now we’re seeing an influx in Canadians visiting us in the summer months as well, which is very encouraging. That also tells us that people will book even more in the winter, so we need people to book early."
Final Impressions of JAPEX 2012
Following the conclusion of JAPEX 2012, Evelyn Smith, president, JHTA said that she was “particularly encouraged that 124 overseas buyers from major tour companies and major gateways attended JAPEX 2012.”
In addition to the thousands of meetings hosted throughout the conference, travel agents and tour operators were given the opportunity to execute site and attraction inspections, and the media were presented with the chance to take in some of the island’s tourist attractions.
|Evelyn Smith, president, JHTA
On Monday evening, Sandals hosted the Jamaica Evening for all JAPEX 2012 delegates at its Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios.
The extravagant beach party featured live entertainment, sprawling buffets and a large variety of drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
“We expect the positive results to be seen in bookings to destination Jamaica and sales of made-in-Jamaica products, going forward,” Smith said.
She also said that in addition to the traditional markets for Jamaica, such as North America and Europe, there is a keen interest in the destination from emerging markets in Latin America and Asia.