On The Road With Jamaica's Destination Product Update

with Peter Johansen

Louise Paquette (left) and Racquel Queensborough, Business Development Managers for Quebec/Atlantic Canada and Southwest/Central Ontario, respectively, at Jamaica Tourist Board.

May Mallouh, Chief Operating Officer of The Vagabond Group, discusses The Cliff with interested travel agents.

Alisteer Nelson, Senior Sales Manager, Breathless Montego Bay Resort and Spa.

Infinity Conference Centre -- The Jamaica Destination Product Showcase is ready to welcome agents to its Ottawa event at the new Infinity Conference Centre.

Ottawa’s sparkling new Infinity Convention Centre was the locale Tuesday for the second stop in Jamaica’s three-city Destination Product Showcase.

Over such Jamaican delicacies as jerk chicken and callaloo fritters – not to mention reggae tunes and a massage station – about 100 capital area travel agents met with 20 suppliers from the hotel, airline and attractions sectors.

According to Louise Paquette, eastern Canada business development manager for the Jamaica Tourist Board, Jamaica’s inbound tourism in the first eight months of 2017 jumped six per cent over the equivalent period last year – and slightly more than that from Canada.

One reason, she said, was this summer’s weather in central Canada. “We had such a lousy summer in Quebec and Ontario that people just wanted to get out of town,” she said. “I think I watered my garden just once.” A second reason: compared with some Caribbean nations, Jamaica was unscathed by Hurricane Irma, so picked up business that might otherwise have headed elsewhere.  And, she added, “Jamaica has a lot of new product and a lot of renovated product, and the agents are extremely interested in that.”

Among those is The Cliff, a high-end Negril property with just 33 units. Opened just over a year ago, it has already been named the top new hotel in the Caribbean and routinely commands top spot on Trip Advisor, according to May Mallouh, chief operating officer of the Vagabond Group, which owns the property. The five-acre resort includes a spa, cliffside restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Cindy Hutson, and rooms and villas ranging from 480 to 5,000 square feet.

“We like working with agents,” Mallouh added. “They have the kind of clientele that really enjoys this kind of experience.”

For a different upscale clientele, AMResorts – which operates a variety of brands for families and the adults-only crowd – emphasized its newest offering, Breathless Resort and Spa in Montego Bay. Senior sales manager Alisteer Nelson noted the 150-room property officially opened late last month, and said the “sophisticated and classy” property is a lifestyle oasis. Guests can access a rooftop infinity pool and have exchange privileges with the parent company’s two properties operating under the Secrets brand.

Other recently opened properties include Jewel Grande in Montego Bay (formerly the Palmyra resort), Hideaway at Royalton Negril (with butlers assigned to every suite), and Karisma’s Azul Beach Resort Sensatori in Negril (with 285 ocean-view suites, including family-oriented accommodation).

Agents could choose either afternoon or evening sessions, designed to give them time to meet one-on-one with representatives in a relaxed trade marketplace setting. For Paquette, the format meant each agent could spend time with travel partners they wanted, rather than having two-minute spiels from every supplier over a sit-down dinner. “Each agent has different needs,” she told Open Jaw. “Some could speak to two or three specific properties and then leave. Others can speak to everyone.” 

The showcase, which met Monday in Toronto, wound up the tour in Montreal on Wednesday.

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