Jamaica -The Caribbean Hotel Association's (CHA) annual Marketplace
trade show, held Jan. 9 to 11 at Half Moon Montego Bay, claimed a
number of firsts - in attendance, venue and size.
The event, the
first held in Jamaica since 1980's Marketplace in Kingston, was
also the first held under a big top - a very big top. In fact, it
was a one-acre marquee, or tent, that housed 403 supplier booths
visited by more than 1,543 delegates.
"The CHA went
outside the box on this one," said Alec Sanguinetti, director
"Because the size
of Marketplace has grown each year and because most member hotels
are in destinations that lack adequate conference space and funds
to facilitate such a large meeting, we've been relegated in the
past few years to hosting this important event in just a few venues
with large conference space."
Virgin Holidays, a new private-sector partner, stepped up this year
with funds to help facilitate transportation and construction of
the huge marquee.
Half Moon Resort
had the lawn space near its existing conference center and shopping
village and, voila, a new venue was in place to host what became
the largest-ever Marketplace event.
Hoteliers and tour
operators praised the event coordinators and planners.
owner and manager of the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas,
termed the event "the best Marketplace I've attended in the last 10
years. The venue drew many more buyers than in years past, and my
appointment schedule was fully booked."
Buyers met with
suppliers on scheduled 20-minute appointments.
setting, the orderly booth setup and the pre-determined appointment
schedules drew praise from all par- ticipants on either side of the
table," according to Ed Malone, general manager of the recently
renovated and reopened Talk of the Town Resort in Aruba.
This year's event
drew more tourism and government officials than in the past, with
tourism ministers representing Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Maarten,
Aruba, Bermuda and the Dominican Republic.
of tourism and industry, Aloun N'dombet Assamba, wandered the trade
show floor with delegates.
minister, P. J. Patterson, in his keynote speech, announced that
financing had been secured for Jamaica to build its largest-ever
conference center, which "will help propel the entire region to
continue its tourism growth."
" Expedia and the CHA formed a partnership in which
Expedia will help drive travelers' interest in the CHA's 849 member
hotels, representing more than 125,000 rooms from megaresorts to
family-owned inns in 36 national hotel associations.
Expedia also will
work with the CHA to educate its members about online
" Sangster Airport in Montego Bay completed the first
phase of its three-phase, $125 million terminal-expansion project.
Ken Campbell, airport marketing director, said industry trends
"indicate a 16% increase this year in traffic through this
" More than 12,000 new rooms will join Jamaica's
inventory within the next eight years, according to Paul Pennicook,
the Jamaica Tourist Board's director of tourism. These include
5,000 rooms in 13 hotels by Spanish hotel developers Riu, Grupo
Pinero, Iberostar and AMResorts.
reported that the new tourism enhancement fee of $10 per arriving
air passenger and $2 per cruise passenger will be collected at the
time of booking and built into the ticket cost.
The date for fee
implementation will be "late winter," according to Pennicook. Funds
collected will be used for the cleanup and beautification of
tourist areas in Jamaica.
" Air Jamaica, recently taken over by the government,
is seeking "a viable plan of growth," according to Pennicook.
"The government has
no intention of controlling the airline permanently. It will
continue to fly just as Air Jamaica Vacations will continue to
operate as usual," he said.
" Wyndham International "is on the fast track," said
Tim Rector, regional vice president of sales and development for
Wyndham's Caribbean division.
"There's lots of
investment and expansion. In Puerto Rico, Las Casitas will add 67
units, El Conquistador will renovate its guest rooms, El San Juan
will announce a complete renovation program within 60 days and all
rooms are being redone at the Wyndham Condado Plaza in San
He said Wyndham
Rose Hall in Jamaica hosted 560 weddings last year. It also
attracted numerous family groups "because of the success of our
Resort Spa & Casino added wireless Internet access, launched a
pool concierge and beach butler program last year and opened a $4
million ballroom on New Year's Eve.
Rector said Wyndham
Martineau Bay Resort & Spa on Vieques is "very much alive and
"Cape Air's new
service from Isla Grande and San Juan, plus its interline agreement
with Continental, makes seamless travel [possible] from the U.S.
mainland," he added.
" Viva Wyndham Resorts now has eight properties, five
in the Dominican Republic, that operate "close to full most of the
time," according to Ettore Colussi, president of Viva Wyndham.
" American Express initiatives include an expansion
of its Beyond the Beach card-member marketing program that began
last year with 10 destinations and now includes 17 Caribbean
" Richard Skerritt, minister of tourism, sports and
culture for St. Kitts, said the opening of the 632-room Marriott in
2003 "improved our airlift and opened up new markets for us, such
as golf and sports tourism."
With the debut of
St. Kitts' second cruise pier, which can support megaships, the
Queen Mary 2 began weekly calls Jan. 12. Skerritt hopes to
introduce a program for the island's smaller properties, as
well.To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send
e-mail to[email protected].