JAPEX Continues to Play Integral Role in Local Tourism Industry


Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), the premier event for the travel industry locally has, since its existence, grown exponentially over the years.
The trade show, which began some 19 years ago, is a collaborative effort between the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), and is supported by every Jamaican organisation involved in the development, promotion and sale of the island’s tourism product.
Staged annually, JAPEX is a vibrant three-day event, which offers the ideal forum for leading suppliers of the Jamaica tourism product to network, negotiate, and meet under one roof with travel wholesalers and tour operators from Europe and the Americas.
By attending JAPEX, participants effectively gain an immediate competitive advantage for their businesses and apprise themselves of the latest developments in the industry.
President of the JHTA, Wayne Cummings, notes that the event is of significant importance to the tourism sector, as unlike the other trade shows that are held overseas and include other markets, JAPEX is specific to Jamaica.
“When you compare that experience here in Jamaica versus going to a Caribbean market which is put on by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, or to the bigger shows in London or Berlin, in Miami or New York, what you end up getting is everybody in a mad flurry trying to get the message across to too wide an audience but when you come to JAPEX, it is all about Jamaica,” he adds.
He informs that the annual event is highly anticipated, citing that one of the reasons for this is its affordability. “The ability to do business on a trading floor where everyone can be seen side by side, almost equally without too much of an investment in travel (is critical),” he says. The show, he adds also gives smaller operators, particularly on the local side, who may not be able to travel to the other shows overseas, the opportunity to meet with tour operators.
He further informs that the show highlights the importance of Jamaica’s new and improved products, which is translated in either print or in the electronic media, adding that it “really translates to the benefit of the country as a whole.”
Highlighting some of the successes of this year’s show, which was held in Montego Bay in May, Mr. Cummings notes that the show was “fantastic”. Of note, he informs is that the merger of the trade show and the Association’s annual general meeting (AGM) for the first time were a remarkable success. “What we found by doing that is that everybody was able to come to the table to do our internal business as well as to focus very heavily on the travel trade,” he said.
Other highlights included: round table discussions; appointment scheduling; networking, and scheduled tours of hotels and attractions.
The JHTA President points out that close to 300 buyers and a large press contingent from overseas were in the island for the event, participating in site inspections and tours of Jamaica. This he adds is testament to the fact that Jamaica still has a pulling factor, given the global economic crisis. “Considering that we are in a tough year like the year that we are operating in now, it shows that we have something that is strong enough that can still pull people to come and look at what we say we have to offer,” he says.
He points out that even though world travel is down, measures should be implemented to ensure that those who are still travelling, whether for business or leisure, want to visit the island. He adds that strategies are also being developed to send the message that Jamaica is open for business, is affordable and a great country to visit.
“Well the most important thing that Jamaica has going for us is that the private and public sector are working very closely together, the JHTA is in collaboration with the Jamaica Tourist Board to ensure seat security,” he notes, lauding the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, for his efforts to ensure that tourism remains viable in the island.Mr. Cummings notes that compared to other islands, Jamaica has been doing reasonably well in travel and trade.
“In pure numbers we have not lost any seat to Jamaica, when you compare that to the other islands, they have been having challenges, they have been having double digit downturns, we (on the other hand) have held firm, in fact we have had marginal growth,” he says.
He attributes this to specific strategies such as advertising, marketing, and seat security, as well as the hard work in terms of simple but important promotion, adding that “Jamaica certainly has more brand equity than most other Caribbean islands.”
In commending the Government for its assistance to the sector, Mr. Cummings notes that the stimulus package which was introduced last year has indeed supported the sector. “(They have) been able to meet us half way with a stimulus package with regards to the GCT that we would normally pay, (that) was cut in half and we were able to put that portion of it back into the marketing side to keep Jamaica’s visibility very high,” he posits.
The package was announced by Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding late last year, and makes concessionary loans available to the tourism sector at all levels.
Mr. Cummings informs that the island’s success also lies in the fact that “the travel trade is very hot for Jamaica and we are certainly very grateful for that. We think that we have a tough rest of the year ahead of us but we think that we must continue to do all that is necessary to make sure that Jamaica’s brand (and) prominence in world tourism, continues to get better and better.”

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