Wednesday,  November 20, 2019  5:00 am

Jamaica brings the 'Heartbeat of the World' to Canadian agents


Jamaica brings the 'Heartbeat of the World' to Canadian agents
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

More hotels, more flights and subsequently, more Canadian visitors are all on the horizon for Jamaica this winter, as the Jamaica Tourist Board brings its latest campaign on the road to travel agents across Canada.

The JTB’s 2019 Fall Product Update Seminar stopped in Toronto last night (Oct. 28) following a run of shows in Western Canada, welcoming more than 350 agents (the tour’s biggest night thus far) to an evening of information and entertainment. In addition to the sights, sounds and flavours of Jamaica, the night included opportunities to meet with 25 Jamaica travel partners ranging from hotels and attractions to airlines and tour operators serving the destination. The JTB will touch down in Montreal tonight (Oct. 29) and then wrap in Ottawa on Wednesday (Oct. 30).

“We’ve seen a very strong representation from travel agents,” Angella Bennett, the JTB’s regional director for Canada, told PAX. “It speaks volumes to the fact that Jamaica remains a very strong destination to the travel trade.”

READ MORE: "It’s the next frontier": Jamaica Tourist Board talks new resorts & destination development

Central to the show is the JTB’s new branding – ‘The Heartbeat of the World’ – which was unveiled last night with a brand-new campaign video showcasing the destination to agents.

“We’ve grown and we wanted to embrace the world with something that touches everybody – the ‘feel’ of Jamaica, the pulse, the pace,” Bennett said of the rebranding. “All of this comes together to create the new tagline.”

Of the Jamaica Tourist Board: Dan Hamilton, district sales manager; Karlene Shakes, national sales manager; Angella Bennett, regional director – Canada; Judy Nash, office manager; Christopher Dobson, district sales manager, Midwest U.S.; Racquel Queensborough, business development manager.

On the horizon

With plans to ultimately increase Jamaica’s hotel room stock by 15,000 over the next five years (of which 5,500 are expected to come online by late 2021/early 2022), Bennett said that the first of these new rooms will open by year’s end, in the form of Ocean Coral Spring, a new Ocean by H10 property bringing 520 rooms to Montego Bay later this year – with another 480 rooms opening there next May.

Other properties in the pipeline include:

  • a 2,000-room Princess Resorts development, breaking ground in Hanover next year;
  • the announcement of a new AMResorts development, also in Hanover, featuring a 500-room, adults-only Sunscapes resort and a 300-room, family-centric Dreams property;
  • a 1,245-room Hard Rock Hotels & Resorts development in Montego Bay, with construction expected to start in the first quarter of 2020; and
  • the commissioning of Karisma’s first 900 rooms of a planned 4,000 room development - nicknamed the "Sugarcane Project," in St. Ann Parish.

Ocean Coral Spring, a new Ocean by H10 property, will bring 520 rooms to Montego Bay later this year.

And as the number of hotels increases, Canadian tour operators are increasing flight capacity to Jamaica, Bennett said, to the tune of 21,000 additional seats this winter, mainly aboard Sunwing and Air Canada Vacations out of Toronto and Montreal.

“We have a good flight plan and great product variation – everybody’s ready!” Bennett said. “Travel agents are excited about all of the new builds that are coming online – more rooms for Canada! – because that means it’s a much easier sell.

"They’re (agents) really pumped about the destination for this year – for the Canadian market, the product and the price need to be right and despite the fact that the U.S. market is doing really well, agents are still able to sell Jamaica in Canada, both in advance and at a fast pace. To me, this speaks to real confidence in the destination.”

Angella Bennett, regional director - Canada, Jamaica Tourist Board

No concerns over state of emergency

Earlier this year, the Jamaican government enacted a state of emergency which encompassed several of the destination’s most popular tourist spots, including St. James parish (which includes Montego Bay) and Westmoreland parish (which includes Negril). While the current state of emergency in these regions expired on Oct. 28 (the emergency has been extended in St. Andrew parish until early January), Bennett said that the situation has not deterred agent bookings this year.

“They understand what it means and they see the benefit of it,” Bennett told PAX. “It’s something that is strategically done so that the destination is even safer, for citizens and guests alike. This education is well-embedded in their minds and they have a greater understanding and appreciation now. It doesn’t affect the guest experience and it hasn’t hindered agents in their sales.”

What else is new and up-and-coming?

  • The Riu Ocho Rios all-inclusive officially re-opened Sept. 21st. Features 45 new family rooms and a new Splash Water World aquatic park.
  • The first-ever AC Hotel by Marriott in Jamaica has officially opened in Kingston. A 220-room design-focused boutique hotel in partnership with Sandals Resorts International.
  • Half Moon luxury resort in Montego Bay has new rooms & suites, an expanded beachfront with a natural swimming cove and adults-only swimming pool.
    The Riu Ocho Rios all-inclusive has re-opened with a new Splash Water World aquatic park.
  • Upcoming music events: Rebel Salute (January in St. Ann); Jamaica Carnival (Easter, Kingston & Ocho Rios); Frenchmen Parties (various times, Ocho Rios); Reggae Sumfest (July, Montego Bay); Dream Weekend (August, Negril).
  • Upcoming athletic events: Kingston City Run (March, Kingston); Mobay City Run (May); Jersey Mike’s Basketball Classic (Montego Bay, November); Negril Reggae Marathon (December); Boys & Girls Athletic Championships (Kingston, March-April); Jake’s Off-Road Triathlon (South Coast, April).
  • Upcoming culinary events: Jamaica Food & Drink Festival (Kingston, October);  Ocho Rios Seafood Festival (August); Trelawny Yam Festival (Easter); Blue Mountain Festival – Kingston (March); Portland Jerk Festival (Port Antonio, July); Westmoreland Curry Festival (April).

Check out our Facebook page for more photos from the evening!


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