The sights, sounds and flavours of Jamaica came to Mississauga last night, as Toronto-area agents took in the Experience Jamaica trade show, highlighting the island’s destinations and attractions in time for the upcoming sun season.
The event, hosted by the Jamaica Tourist Board at the Mississauga Convention Centre, featured a number of exhibitors representing the island’s many resorts and attractions, as well as vacation companies. A dinner by renowned Chef Selwyn Richards, featuring classic Jamaican dishes such as jerk chicken and plantain, was served up to the sounds of The Arsenals ska band. A second Toronto-area event takes place tonight in Scarborough, followed by stops in Ottawa and Montreal later this week.
Exhibitors at the event included Palladium Hotels; Half Moon, A Rock Resort; Sandals & Beaches Resorts; AM Resorts (Secrets); Jewel Resorts; Couples Resorts; Real Tours; Relax Resort; Courtleigh Hotel, Knutsford Hotel, The Pegasus; Kingston Jamaica; Grand Bahia; Sunset Resorts; Caribbean Castles representing Mystic Mountain; Hedonism II; Riu Hotels; Caribbean Airlines; Westjet Vacations; Sunwing Vacations; Total Vacations; Travel Brands; Air Canada Vacations; and Transat Holidays.
According to Philip Rose, Regional Director of the JTB in Canada, Canadian arrivals to Jamaica have jumped in 2014, with 312,000 Canadian travellers venturing to the island between January and September, representing a six per cent increase over 2013.
“It’s been a phenomenal year so far,” Rose told PAX. “We started off with a bang and we ask for their (the travel industry) continued support as we approach the winter season.”
Rose told PAX that for Canadians, the island’s diversity of experiences and friendly people are the ongoing travel draws.
“It’s easy to say it’s the beaches and the culinary delights – which we do have,” said Rose, “but I think what really sets us apart is the people - and the diehard attention to detail, often overlooked in the service industry.... We are also the most diverse destination within the Caribbean – you name it, you can find it here. No two Jamaica vacations are alike.”
Rose said those increased tourism numbers are also attributable in part to an increased focus on summer travel to Jamaica, originally considered a difficult task but accomplished with the help of Canadian tour operators willing to take on the challenge, he said.
“One thing I challenged my team with when I took the position was to grow the summer business,” said Rose. “Everyone told me it was impossible –‘in June and July, there’s no way you can get that business.’ Our tour operator partners increased their air service for the summer and they’re now reaping the rewards. Canadian tour operators have been huge partners for us and we thank them profusely. Winter is always going to be the strongest season for us, but it takes some true ‘oomph’ to get the travellers in summer and they did it!”
The board also recently launched a new campaign under the slogan ‘Get Alright,’ updated from the former line of ‘Once You Go, You Know,’ which Rose mused as less relevant as tourism numbers increase.
“People went, and as a result, now they know,” joked Rose about the old slogan. “We looked around for a slogan that captured the essence of Jamaica and once we asked people what their takeaway was from a vacation there, the one thing that kept coming up was that they had a certain sense of balance, ‘it’s all good.’
Philip Rose, Regional Director, JTB Canada; Racquel Queensborough, Business Development Manager; Judy Nash, Office Manager; Dan Hamilton, Business Development Manager.