Exhibitors at the recent staging of the Christmas in July trade show in Kingston are thankful that they were given the opportunity to showcase their products, despite the limitations caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The event was held virtually for the first time, in response to the physical distancing measures put in place by the Government to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Locally produced gifts and souvenir items from the categories of fashion and accessories, art and craft, processed foods, aromatherapy and souvenirs, such as desktop items and décor that are available for purchase, adorned the Ball Room at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on July 23.
Tricia Williamson, Founder of Bambusa Jamaica, a company that produces authentic Jamaican souvenir and personalised gift items, told JIS News that she was happy to participate in the event, although it was missing that deep engagement with customers.
“The experience was different but I’m happy that it took place, because everything helps. As a business, we’ve had to pivot to adjust to the pandemic and how life is changing,” Ms. Williamson said.
“It is important for us to be out there and keep that awareness going. So, I do think that even though the event has gone virtual, it’s still good and I will do it again, ” she added.
Ms. Williamson said that since the trade show, there has been a noticeable uptick in the number of persons who have made queries about her products via social media.
The event was streamed live on the social media pages of all the partner entities, exposing the products to viewers in Jamaica and the diaspora.
With the absence of suppliers and patrons physically, contact information for each supplier was shown on screen or read out by host Christopher “Johnny” Daley, who described each product in an entertaining way throughout the two-hour live stream.
Ms. Williamson indicated that the trade show has become a major event for her company, having now participated in it for the second time.
“Last year was very good. We got a lot of contracts from Christmas in July, which was very helpful, because a lot of the companies and customers got introduced to our brand,” she pointed out.
She said also that it allowed individuals and corporate entities to see the items that were available months in advance, giving them enough time to get themselves prepared, so orders could be placed early.
Another exhibitor, Chocolatier and Founder of Chocollor Chocolate, Carl Sharpe, said he too was pleased with the format in which the event was held.
“It was a wonderful idea to have it virtually, given the circumstances in which we are living right now. It actually keeps the name of the products in the public sphere,” Mr. Sharpe told JIS News.
He also indicated that a number of persons have reached out to his company via its Instagram page.
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, in his remarks at the opening ceremony, said the trade show is one of the signature events of the Tourism Linkages Network.
According to the Minister, it had an “overwhelming response”, with 183 manufacturers and artisans grasping the opportunity to display their locally made corporate gift items for assessment to secure a spot as an exhibitor.
In the end, 146 suppliers were selected.
The Minister indicated that the response received from its stakeholders demonstrates the importance of the event, not just to the tourism sector but also to the revival of the national economy.
Mr. Bartlett said that over the years, participants have gained millions of dollars in sales through contracts negotiated at the event.
“The 50 highest earners of Christmas in July 2019, made a combined total of $9.2 million by participating in the event,” he revealed.
The trade show was organised by the Tourism Linkages Network, a division of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, in partnership with Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (JMEA), Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), and the Bureau of Standards.
A gift catalogue of all participants and samples of their work will be made available at a later date.