Sun | Jun 16, 2024

MICE to drive more tourism revenue to Jamaica

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2024 | 12:13 AMJanet Silvera - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Vanessa Ledesma, CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.
A section of the crowd of 1,200 delegates who attended the opening ceremony of the 42nd Caribbean Travel Marketplace held on May 20, at the Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay, St James.
A fire performer ignites the steps of the historic Rose Hall Great House at the opening ceremony for the 42nd Caribbean Travel Marketplace.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

Highlighted as a pivotal moment in this year’s just-concluded Caribbean Travel Marketplace (CTM) was the unveiling of the Caribbean Meetings, Incentives and Exhibitions (MICE) Exchange, which drew the attention of 13 planners, mainly from the United States and as far as Poland.

The inaugural event underscored Jamaica and the region’s growing appeal as a premier destination for meetings and incentives.

The meetings and incentives aspect of the market was the last to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as companies forbade their staff to travel, even after countries reopened and started accepting visitors again.

“MICE is very important to Jamaica. Not only is it a volume driver but, more importantly, it drives more revenue to the destination,” said Philip Rose, deputy director of tourism, with responsibility for the Americas, during CHTA Marketplace which was staged at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from May 20 to May 22.

“It also is one of the market segments that benefits not only the resorts but the DMCs (Destination Management Companies) at large. It also benefits the attractions across the island, because more and more of our MICE partners are telling us that they’re looking for things to do beyond the walls of the resorts,” Rose added.

According to him, MICE planners are looking for the top-notch service that Jamaica has been historically able to offer. Thus, the decision was taken to include this segment in the 42nd staging of CTM.

Rose’s comments were echoed by Vanessa Ledesma, CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), who said the exchange was one of the many firsts for the marketplace, and the feedback was amazing.

“It gave MICE planners the opportunity to truly understand the diversity and all that the Caribbean has to offer,” shared Ledesma.

From a supplier perspective, Ledesma noted that the hotels and 28 destinations that participated in CTM had an opportunity to understand the potential of that additional business aspect.

“And that it’s not only the big hotels that can benefit from the MICE market, but also the independent, luxury properties, particularly, with the incentive market.”

She pointed out that this market had a slower recovery compared to leisure travel, as business travel overall was impacted by COVID. However, virtual meetings worked for a period, but people are now craving that connection, and human interaction is palpable.

“In every business aspect, it is all about relationships. And you need to be with people to facilitate those relationships.”

Ledesma highlighted the strengthening of corporate events such as CTM over the past two years.

“We’re seeing more conferences regaining their calendars and their periods,” she revealed.

Close to 1,100 delegates attended the conference, represented by 136 buyer companies, including wholesalers and tour operators, mainly from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Poland, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Holiday Inn’s director of sales, Carol Dunbar, whose hotel had pre-meetings with the planners, sang the praises of the opportunity her company was given.

“We’ve gotten new business out of Caribbean Travel Marketplace, and the most impressive part about the tradeshow this year was the MICE programme,” Dunbar told The Sunday Gleaner on Wednesday.

“We had about 14 pre-meetings in a separate meeting room where the MICE appointments were made, which was really very good. And we had 20 minutes of concentrated discussion on this segment, which has never happened before,” she revealed.

With more than 500 rooms and 3,000 square feet of meeting space, the MICE market is very important to Holiday Inn, which changes hands officially to ownership by Spanish group Catalina by July 1, stated Dunbar.

Pre-bookings for 2025 and 2026 from the MICE market are extremely encouraging.

Research shows that the market size was valued close to US$500 million in 2021. The market is also expected to reach US$539 million by 2028.

editorial@gleanerjm.com