Jamaica: Agent to Agent

The appeal of selling Jamaica continues to grow, according to travel agents. Those who do volume business within the country cite the Jamaican people, all-inclusive pricing, romantic settings for weddings and honeymoons and proactive assistance from the Jamaica Tourist Board as the top reasons for becoming a Jamaica specialist.

Meg Smith of Kennett Travel American Express in Kennett Square, Pa., sells a lot of Renaissance Jamaica Grande for families, because it's "kid convenient, with a location on the point [at Ocho Rios] and plenty of activities."

"I really love Grand Lido Sans Souci," Smith says, "because it's a beautiful property -- and I can sell the spa." Smith also sells Enchanted Gardens spa packages, with appointments for massages, facials and other treatments included, for maximum commissions. "I'm putting a lot of effort into spa programs," Smith says, "because they give added value."

After taking a hike in the hills above the Sandals Country Club in Ocho Rios, Smith is considering putting together hiking tours in Jamaica for clients she's now sending to other destinations. Some qualified Jamaican residents are providing official guide services for hiking in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park and other areas, making it easy to have a knowledgeable and dependable local link for hiking expeditions.

Kathy Orr at La Palma Travel in La Palma, Calif., sells a lot of "all-inclusives because I know clients are getting their money's worth and can budget." Orr recently returned from time with her family at Beaches in Negril. "The sea at Negril is amazing," Orr says. "The range of activities and accommodations also makes Jamaica ideal for family vacations."

She adds that she specializes in Jamaica because "not many people in the West know about Jamaica and the Caribbean." "Honeymoons are big business for us," Orr says.

"The best way to sell Jamaica is through its people," says Pat Anger of Anger's Uniglobe Travel in Port Huron, Mich., who works mostly with professionals who enjoy meeting people when they travel. "Jamaica has a fabulous 'Meet The People' program where visitors can spend time with Jamaicans who have similar interests and I always tell clients to sign up when they get to the hotel," Anger says.

Even though she sells mostly all-inclusives, she advises clients "to get out of the property and go to other restaurants and places when they want to, but with an all-inclusive, you know your costs."

Since there are several good tour operators with packages convenient to her area, Anger uses them instead of booking direct. "They have people on site if my clients have questions," Anger says.

"When we first started, we sold all of Jamaica -- and we still do specific independent properties when we have clients who ask -- and can afford -- them, but my first fam trip with the Jamaica Tourist Board covered three areas and 35 hotels in one week. That education, she says, has proved invaluable.

Anger praises the JTB staff for its willingness to get things done. "The JTB trips cover a variety of properties, where the tour operator fam trips usually include only the ones they sell,'' Anger says. "But I take every fam trip I can."

"Nothing compares with seeing the product firsthand, no matter how you do it."

Charles Russell of Lynn's Travel in Lynbrook, N.Y., recently visited several upscale properties that are part of the Elegant Resorts group, which includes Half Moon, Round Hill and Coyaba, in the Montego Bay area.

Although "clients think they know what they want," Russell says he can steer them, once he's listened to their interests, budget, activities wanted and where they went on their last good vacation. "Jamaica has everything that anyone could want, if you put the right person in the right place," he says.

"Use the luxury hotel as a base, but assemble your client's own package, with pre-sold day trips and other activities," Russell says. He has successfully linked with a car service and is looking at helping with passports and other services. He also will deliver tickets, usually at no extra cost.

"There are ways to ingratiate yourself in an educational way with clients who are busy with their own careers -- and need a professional who's knowledgeable about travel," Russell says.

To build up activity, Russell suggests doing mailings, a newsletter and calling regular clients to tell them "there's a special on this -- and I think this suits you."

"Try to hop a fam and use it -- not as a vacation but to get to know properties first-hand. Use Jamaica Express [a local airline] to get from area to area to save time and see the variety.

"Jamaica has at least six totally different areas and hundreds of nuances with the hotels," Russell says. "You're not going to know unless you go."

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For More Information

Jamaica Tourist Board: (800) 233-4582; Web site: www.jamaicatravel.com; e-mail [email protected]

Tourist offices in the U.S.:
Atlanta: (770) 452-7799; fax (770) 452-0220
Boston: (617) 335-6931; fax (617) 335-6291
Chicago: (312) 527-1296; fax (312) 527-1472
Dallas: (214) 553-5118; fax (214) 553-5183
Detroit: (810) 948-9557; fax (810) 948-1860
Los Angeles: (213) 384-1123; fax (213) 384-1780
Miami: (305) 665-0557; fax (305) 666-7239
New York: (212) 856-9727; fax (212) 856-9730
Philadelphia: (800) 233-4582

Tourist offices in Jamaica:
Black River (south coast): (876) 965-2074; fax (876) 965-2076
Kingston (south coast): (876) 929-9200; fax (876) 929-9375
Montego Bay (north coast, west): (876) 952-4425; fax (876) 952-3587
Negril (farthest west, north coast): (876) 957-4243; fax (876) 957-4489
Ocho Rios (north coast, mid-island): (876) 974-2582/70; fax (876) 974-2559
Port Antonio (farthest east, north coast): (876) 993-3051; fax (876) 993-2117

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