There was a buzz on the trading floor at Japex this year – the kind that has not been felt for some years now. Maybe it sparked from the determination of an industry severely wounded by last July’s violence in Kingston and the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States that all but dried up leisure and business travel.
Whatever the reason, the 230 suppliers (owners and operators of local hotels, attractions and tourism entities) and 93 buyers (tour operators and wholesalers) were visibly focused on securing business over the trade fair’s two days this week.
The Jamaica Tourist Board, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association and, mostly, the larger hoteliers, made sure that the overseas trade press had no shortage of information about Jamaica and the tourism product.
Starting with the news conference on Sunday, April 14, volumes of information were given to the journalist who, the following day were hosted by SuperClubs, Sandals and Couples in that order.
SuperClubs’ executive vice-president, Joseph “Joey” Issa, led his team in hosting the press to breakfast on the M/Y Zein in Ocho Rios harbor on Monday morning.
Issa gave them an update of developments in the super-inclusive group that included the opening of another of their Breezes brand in Brazil in a year; the opening of the 339-room Breezes Curacao last December; and the fact that the group already operates four resorts in Cuba.
“In Jamaica, we launched our Starfish brand in February and based on the response, we’re on to a winner,” said Issa. “It’s the hottest property in Jamaica.”
He also disclosed that work on the former Club Jamaica will start in another two months and on completion, it will function as an EP (European Plan) property, most likely with a name new to the group.
Issa also told of SuperClubs’ incentive programme for travel agents, scheduled to start in four months, which offers them attractive incentives if they can show SuperClubs and of their other travel partners who treats them better.
“Our motto,” Issa told the journalists, “is to try and make tomorrow better than today.”
Following that breakfast, Jamaica’s other hotel giant, Sandals, hosted lunch at Beaches Royal Plantation, the swanky resort that Sandals chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, say deserves an unprecedented seven-star rating.
Stewart told the journalists of the group’s acquisition and refurbishing programme that will see them opening five new hotels this year – two in Jamaica, a second in Cuba, one in Anguilla and a third in St. Lucia.
“We’ve had a great year,” said Stewart, who added that while occupancies for January and February were less than those recorded for the same months last year, the performance in March exceeded the previous year.
“We expect April to come out ahead of April last year,” Stewart said.
GoGo Worldwide Tours, Stewart said, played a significant role in Sandals’ March performance, selling a record number of business for the brand. So, in appreciation, he presented Mike Norton, GoGo Worldwide’s boss, with a plaque.
Norton, in response, said that the events of September 11 opened everyone’s eyes. “We looked at all our partners and said “we need to get people on aircraft and when they get to the properties they must be treated well”. Our performance, therefore, was due to the performance of the properties.”
After the trade fair ended, Josef Forstmayr, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association president, said his membership offered mixed responses.
What that basically meant was that the persons who did not network failed to benefit from the trade fair. Those who worked the trading floor and social functions, though, left smiling.
Picture caption 1: Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association president, Josef Forstmayr (2nd left), shows off one of the brochures for his resort – Round Hill Hotel and Villas – to (from left) William Clarke, chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board; Portia Simpson Miller, tourism minister; Camille Needham, JHTA senior executive; and Fay Pickersgill, director of tourism.
Picture caption 2: Sandals chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart (left), presents GoGo Worldwide Tours’ Mike Norton with a plaque in appreciation of GoGo’s record March sales for Sandals. Occasion was a media lunch hosted by Sandals at Beaches Royal Plantation Monday.
Picture caption 3: John Nalewicki (left), sales director North America for Sunset Beach Resort and Spa, and hi colleague talk business with thee two travel buyers (right), during Japex 2002 on Monday.
Picture caption 4: SuperClubs’ executive vice-president Joseph Issa (with microphone), updates the travel press on developments at SuperClubs during a press breakfast held on the M/Y Zein Monday morning.
Source: The Observer