Last night, the opening ceremony for the annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) conference kicked off in Montego Bay, where nearly 200 of the country's leading tourism suppliers are meeting with attendees.
JAPEX is the premier trade event hosted by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, in partnership with the Jamaican Tourist Board. Now in its 27th year, the event is the single most important business generator for Jamaica’s tourism industry.
Over the course of the next few days, guests will have access to informative seminars on topical issues, the chance to negotiate business deals on spot, and the opportunity to enrol in educational workshops that influence key industry discussions.
Jamaica's tourism is flourishing and as JHTA President Omar Robinson pointed out, the possibilities for growth are endless.
"We are excited at the prospects and the possibilities that are constantly unfolding," Robinson said.
The annual JAPEX event allows guests to take full advantage of the new opportunities presented to them. This year, more than 105 tour operators, 153 international travel agents, and a large contingent of international press arrived in Jamaica to take part in this year's offerings.
"We meet at a time when the world of tourism and travel is undergoing changes, and both challenges and opportunities abound," Robinson said. "The landscape is rapidly changing for various reasons, summoning us to read the future right, in order to plan for it effectively."
“Of course, top of mind at this time is the unprecedented line of hurricanes that have been blowing through the Caribbean, sections of Florida, and other areas of the United States, leaving disruption and devastation in their wake,” said Robinson. “Our hearts go out to our neighbours, as they struggle to recover and rebuild.”
To assist in hurricane relief efforts, the JHDA has set up a hurricane relief fund to assist the Caribbean islands which have been devastated by the hurricanes. To start things off, $10,000USD has been donated by the JHDA charity account.
On Climate Change
“The CHDA has also launched the One Caribbean Family Initiative and Plan in solidarity with our Caribbean neighbours who have been affected by the storms Irma and Maria,” Robinson said. “All of us as partners need to seriously consider the topic of climate change, which seems to be affecting the weather patterns in countries all over the world, and how we must change and adapt to deal with it.”
“It is certainly in the interest of all of us in the travel and tourism industry to do our part to ensure that climate change is kept on the global development agenda. All of us need to become better equipped to withstand the changes in weather patterns."
This week, JHTA is observing both its annual Tourism Awareness Week, organized by the Tourism Ministry, and the UN-sponsored World Tourism Day on Sept. 27. The focus of both is on sustainable tourism, which has become a major trend in the industry.
Jamaica has been selected to host the UNWTO Year of Sustainable Development Conference in November. Sustainability covers many topics, including quality and standards, infrastructure, and conditions of surrounding communities, as well as environmental issues.
Despite Jamaica’s recent tourism growth, Robinson points out the importance of minding its impact. “We must be ever-conscious that tourism is not an island,” Robinson said. “The communities surrounding the resort areas, and in fact the whole country, must be growing and developing along with the industry. This means that the social and physical infrastructure must keep pace with tourism development.”
The Role of Social Media
Social media continues to play a leading part in affecting travel patterns and preferences for guests. "Visitors want to, and are better equipped to have a greater role in designing their own vacation experiences," Robinson said. "To better understand this trend in travel, we have to look for the driving forces behind it. Apart from the obvious affordability factor and strong appeal to the young, adventurous new traveller, one driver is the desire to have the experience of living, if only for a few days, in an authentic community.”
“Our goal as the JHTA is to make sure that the increasing demand for non-traditional accommodation results in significant growth in stopover arrivals and is fully integrated into our offerings. We have the business agility to meet and adjust to whatever demands of the marketplace without losing our Jamaican identity and the strength of our brand."