More airlift and more engagement with travel agents will be the top priorities for Angella Bennett, the newly-appointed Canadian director for the Jamaica Tourist Board.
Bennett was announced as the board’s new Canadian director earlier this week, taking over from long-time JTB Canadian director Philip Rose, who became the board’s northeastern U.S. director in January after seven years in Canada.
Big plans in place
During a visit to PAX’s Toronto office with her JTB colleagues, Bennett outlined her plans for promoting the destination to Canadian travellers and travel agents. According to Bennett, priority number one will be increasing airlift to the destination, particularly from Western Canada.
“First and foremost, it’s about growing the airlift,” Bennett told PAX. “Western Canada is a focus for us and where we need to grow lift; this is a weak area for us and we’re having some conversations in the coming weeks, particularly WestJet, to see if this can be realized.”
In addition, more engagement of the travel trade will be taking place, including a focus on digital strategies and an enhanced Jamaica Travel Specialist program (offering rewards and incentives for agents), including the launch of a French version of the program for Quebec travel agents rolling out in the coming weeks.
“This is a big focus for us because it wasn’t originally captured in our content,” she said. “We want to roll it out as quickly as possible, because we need to have this in French."
Helping agents understand–and sell!
These strategies, Bennett said, are all part of helping the travel agent community to better understand – and sell – the evolving tourism product in Jamaica. According to JTB Director of Tourism Donovan White, this will include a number of new hotel openings in the destination over the coming years, including:
- A 1,000-room project by Ocean by H10 in Trelawney, of which 500 rooms will be delivered to market this year;
- An 1,150-room project by Hard Rock in Montego Bay, set to begin later this year;
- Two thousand rooms to be built by Princess Resorts & Hotels over the next two-and-a-half years, which will start this year in Hanover.
- The opening later this year of the 220-room AC Marriott by Sandals in Kingston
- An additional 40 family rooms (for a total of 925 rooms) and new waterpark coming to RIU Ocho Rios, which will close this summer for renovation and reopen in October.
“Agents are the specialists and are talking to the clients, so we need to make sure that we’re talking to them,” Bennett explained. “We want to make sure that they’re educated on how to sell the new Jamaica; Jamaica has evolved over the last couple of years. The landscape and inventory has changed and we’re not mass-market; as we compete with the Dominican Republic or Mexico, we’re a boutique destination.
“We have to re-educate the agents on how to not only sell Jamaica, but how to up-sell Jamaica.”
In the near future, several promotional campaigns will be rolled out, including one aimed at both trade and consumers in July as well as a promotion called 57 Days of Savings, Bennett explained. The sale commemorates Jamaica’s 57th anniversary of independence this year with a booking window opening May 1. So far, it’s been a hit with Canadian tour operators, she said.
“I’ve discussed the promotion with tour operator partners and they all love it!” she said. “These 57 days of savings will help support travel through summer into their winter bookings.”
And with more than 20 years of travel industry experience – including her most recent role serving as director of sales at RIU Hotels & Resorts, Jamaica overseeing sales and revenue management activities for 2,500 rooms across five resorts – Bennett said that she’ll be drawing on that experience along with the numerous strong relationships she has developed over the years.
“They know me very well and over the last 20 years, I’ve been interacting with them at an executive level,” she said of her industry partners. “The decision-makers can always be engaged in more meaningful conversations with Jamaica and work with them on specific projects.”
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