In a celebration of partnership and luxury, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and Ensemble Travel Group announced a strategic alliance on Thursday (Sept. 21) at an exclusive "Come Back to Luxurious" VIP dinner in The St. Regis' 30th-floor event space in downtown Toronto.
This occasion marks the beginning of a collaborative journey to highlight Jamaica's premium tourism offerings in the North American retail market.
In attendance was the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's Minister of Tourism; Donovan White, JTB’s director of tourism; Angella Bennett, the JTB's regional director Canada; and, Michael Johnson, president of Ensemble, along with his team, and a group of luxury travel advisors and trade media.
The evening featured presentations from various luxury hotel and attractions partners in Jamaica, including Jamaica Inn and The Tryall Club (represented by Canlink Travel in Canada), Round Hill Hotel and Villas, Trident Castle, and Chukka Caribbean Adventures.
From villas with private pools and personal chefs to helicopter transfers and bespoke adventures, the presenters highlighted Jamaica's luxury offerings.
Taking luxury travel to the next level
The concept of 'Come Back to Luxurious' emerged from informal discussions between the JTB and Ensemble.
Minister Bartlett acknowledged Jamaica’s image as a destination catering to various affordability levels but highlighted that in fact, the destination has a rich heritage in luxury tourism.
He pointed out that Jamaica had already been a luxury destination from the 19th century, attracting celebrities and the rich and famous as early as the mid-20th century.
Bartlett then conveyed to attendees Jamaica’s readiness to revitalize its status as a luxury destination through the strategic partnership between the JTB and Ensemble.
The Minister explained that together with on-island partners, “we are ready” to leverage Ensemble's powerful network of travel advisors to drive the next era of luxury travel in Jamaica.
Johnson also reaffirmed Ensemble’s commitment to the campaign to work together to introduce a new era of luxury travel in Jamaica:
"We are thrilled to launch this exclusive partnership with the Jamaica Tourist Board as it is not only one of the top-selling destinations for our members but also reflects the kind of selective opportunities we seek to offer exclusively to Ensemble advisors. We are confident that this will deliver enhanced sales for our partners and members alike, which is always our priority."
It was shared with attendees that both parties consider this partnership a major step forward in luxury travel.
Bartlett was quick to add that Jamaica's people have a key role to play in the return of luxury tourism:
"In essence, our return to luxury tourism is intricately linked to the exceptional people of Jamaica, who are our most iconic attraction. We firmly believe that our warm and welcoming culture sets us apart as one of the finest destinations on Earth," he said.
Empowering Ensemble travel advisors
The JTB says the partnership seeks to deliver a series of educational activities and engagement initiatives, all designed with one goal in mind: to empower Ensemble travel advisors to sell the destination’s premium offerings.
It's the most exciting partnership the JTB has embarked on in years, according to Donovan White.
“Together we are about empowering Ensemble travel advisors to sell Jamaica premium hotels, resorts, tours, and attractions, helping them to deliver the very best VIP experiences to their clients all the time," White said.
This initiative involves collaboration with a group of elite on-island hotel and tour operator partners, including Round Hill, Half Moon, Island Routes, and many more.
The JTB shared that Ensemble advisors will have a deep understanding of Jamaica's luxury options and the ability to tailor unique experiences for their clients.
Exclusive access and curated experiences
As part of the 'Come Back to Luxurious' campaign, Ensemble's Canadian agents will enjoy exclusive privileges.
The consortia will have access to comprehensive training programs and marketing materials:
“This coming fall and winter, we will provide Ensemble’s membership, with exclusive opportunities and curated FAM trips to learn about Jamaica's unique luxury offerings and provide tangible tools to sell those experiences to their clients," said White.
A transformed Ensemble
According to the JTB, its selection of Ensemble as the preferred consortium for this exclusive alliance is an affirmation of the company’s comprehensive revitalization over the past 15 months.
With the acquisition of Ensemble by the Navigatr Group in 2022, Ensemble underwent “a meticulous organizational and brand rehaul.”
“At Ensemble, we spent the last year refreshing a company from the ground up touching every single member, partner and customer program,” Johnson shared. “We built a strong foundation and developed a more sophisticated and elevated approach to member and client engagement. We focused on innovation and creating unique and compelling opportunities for our partners. It was always our plan to rebuild the company.”
Everything from recruiting top industry talent to launching new hotel, cruise, and DMC programs was included in this transformation.
In addition to its technology platforms, Ensemble has introduced new marketing resources.
While Johnson acknowledged the current economic challenges, including the effects of inflation and interest rates, he emphasized that the campaign with Jamaica “couldn’t be timed more perfectly because we know that the luxury customer has the ability to navigate these economic headwinds.”
Ambitious goals for Canada
Minister Bartlett shared encouraging statistics with attendees, highlighting the recovery of Jamaica's tourism industry.
This year, the destination has already welcomed two million visitors and generated nearly $3 billion in revenue, a 69 per cent increase from the previous year.
As for Canada, Minister Bartlett outlined plans to boost visitor numbers. He stressed the importance of diversifying both demographics and psychographic profiles, a strategy supported by additional airlift and luxury-related carriers.
"Canada is our second-largest market, and we are currently at just above the 300,000 mark,” Bartlett shared. “My projections are driven by data, and I have evidence now that the Canadian market is ready to take us to half a million visitors within the next two years."