By Noel Thompson
Regional Director, Public Relations, Sales and Marketing
Despite the many vicissitudes grappling the travel and tourism industry since the onset of the global pandemic, it has provided a rare opportunity for the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) tradeshow to be fully streamed virtually to an unprecedented wider audience.
This feat is being achieved for the first time since the event is being staged in the usual face-to-face traditional sense over the past 30 years.
Held annually, the tradeshow is being staged between November 9 and 10. It is organized by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) in collaboration with the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
“The virtual experience has afforded us a more expanded global audience and allows access to the tradeshow from just about anywhere,” admitted Clifton Reader, President of the JHTA.
The JAPEX exhibition seeks to bring all locally based partners across the hospitality sector under one umbrella to showcase their products to international buyers, travel agents and planners to achieve satisfactory returns on their investments over the medium to long term.
Reader, in his opening remarks, admitted that JAPEX 2020 was being held in extra ordinary times, considering the challenges facing the travel and tourism industry. He noted, however, that the JHTA and all its members were grateful that so many people were able to participate in the event virtually.
“JAPEX 2020 is your best opportunity for an interactive experience with our partners. It is here that we will come together to network, negotiate deals and get updates on Jamaica as a destination,” Reader said, as he spoke directly to those in the international marketplace.
Describing it as a ‘redefined JAPEX’ tradeshow, Reader observed that it would allow everyone to find similar value, as they would, at the traditional event.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, is fervent in his belief that in due course the tourism industry will rebound much stronger than pre-COVID-19. His remarks were measured against the background of previous world crises experienced to which the sector had always remained resilient.
“The coronavirus will be no different. Yes, it has brought us to our knees, but I can say unreservedly that in time, we will arise better than before. As we confront our challenges, turning them into opportunities, we get to re-event ourselves and innovate. We get to view tourism from a new perspective,” Bartlett observed.
Bartlett supported this notion with the staging of JAPEX Live 2020, which he said was a perfect example of how we can re-imagine ourselves, as globally and nationally, we adopt to the unprecedented uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.
Bartlett also seized the opportunity to announce that international investors would be undertaking the construction of a new 1,700-room resort in the tourism mecca of Montego Bay. He said a 2,000-room resort was also earmarked to be constructed in Green Island, Hanover – major developments, which he said would provide thousands of jobs for locals on the island.
“I commend the Jamaica Tourist Board and the JHTA for having the fortitude to rise to the challenges instead of being daunted by the setbacks,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett added that due to a united effort by all stakeholders in the local industry, Jamaica was already starting to see some positive signs that buoyancy was slowly returning to the sector. This is evident with preliminary figures from the JTB, indicating that since the reopening of the country’s borders on June 15th, approximately 211,000 passengers have arrived on the island.
He said earnings between June to September quarter amassed over USD$231.9 million, while hotel occupancy rates are slowly inching up. “We are cautiously optimistic that we will see a 40 per cent increase in arrivals over the winter season, when compared to the preceding period of pre-COVID 19,” he said.
And JAPEX 2020 is seeing more than 70 of their members participating in this year’s tradeshow, primarily as exhibitors. These include: 138 Student Living; AC Hotels by Marriott; Altamont West Hotel/Hotel 39; AM Resorts; Amstar DMC; Bay View Eco Resort; Blue Diamond Resorts; Caribbean World Enterprises; Charela Inn; Chukka Caribbean Adventures; Coco LaPalm Seaside Resort; Columbus Heights Condominiums; Coming2; Couples Resorts; Courtleigh Hospitality; Courtyard Marriott Kingston; Decameron Resorts Jamaica; Deja Resort; Dolphin Cove; Dreamer Catamarans/ Rhapsody Tours, Cruises; Fisherman’s Point/Sunflower Villas/ Sky Castle; Foote Prints on the Sands Hotel; Franklyn D Resort; and Fun Holiday Beach Resort.
Others include: Goblin Hill Villas at San San; Grand Palladium Hotel; Half Moon; Holiday Services Ltd; Iberostar Hotels; Island Car Rentals; Island Routes Caribbean Adventures; Jakes Hotel Villas and Spa; Jamaica Bridal Expo; Jamaica Cruising; Jamaica Inn; Jamaica Tourist Board; Jamaica Tours Limited; Jamrock Tours Ltd; JamWest Motorsports; JHTA; Knutsford Connect; Melia Braco Village – Jamaica; Merrill’s Beach Resort; Montego Bay Convention Centre; Negril Palms Hotel; Negril Tree House Resort; Negril’s Idle Awhile; Ocean Coral Spring; and Palace Resorts.
The rest include: Playa Resorts; R Hotel Kingston; Reggae Horseback Riding; Rondel Village Resort; Rooms Negril; Rose Hall Developments; Round Hill Hotel and Villas; Samsara Cliff Resort; Sandals Resorts; Sandy Haven Resort; Sixt Rent-a-Car; Sunset at the Palms; Tensing Pen; The Boardwalk Village; The Cliff Hotel; The Holiday Inn Resort - Montego Bay; Toby’s Resort; Tourism Enhancement Fund; Travellers Beach Resort; Treasure Beach Destination Management Organization; (TB DMO); Trident Undersea Trekking; and Tropical Tours Ltd.