The Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) is pushing for greater emphasis to be placed on the Meeting, Exhibition, Events and Convention (MEEC) industry, which is not being given the same level of attention as tourism.
Consulting Officer, Investment Services, at the JTI, Ms. Kerisha Cadogan, told a forum put on by year four hospitality students of the Excelsior Community College, at the Kingston-based school yesterday (November 30), that although the two industries are connected, tourism is actually a support activity to MEEC.
Ms. Cadogan proposed that in this time when tourism is on the decline, globally, the country should try to tap its potential in the MEEC sector. She informed that Jamaica currently has 170,000 square feet of meeting space, with more than 30,000 hotel rooms to support these meeting spaces.
“If you look at it in terms of just the sheer space we have, and the industry is growing, there is a lot of potential for persons like yourselves to take advantage of this industry. There are a lot of job openings that will be created as a result of the investments that are coming here,” she told the students.
She said that the Government, through the Factory Construction Act, is offering import duty and income tax exemptions to persons who invest in venues catering to the MEEC sector. One such centre, which is currently being built for the MEEC market, is the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James, which is expected to have over 30,000 square feet of meeting space, which will be able to accommodate approximately 3,000 persons at a time.
Consulting Officer, Investment Services, at the Jamaica Trade and Invest, Ms. Kerisha Cadogan, talks to a group of students from the Excelsior Community College, in Kingston, about opportunities in the Meeting, Exhibition, Event and Convention (MEEC) industry, during a forum put on by year four hospitality students, at the school, on November 30.
Ms. Cadogan explained that the MEEC industry is an extremely profitable one, because of its linkages with several other industries, as when persons travel for entertainment shows, conventions or meetings, they usually require accommodation, food, entertainment and other services.
She shared that a 2008 survey done by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) showed that, on average, a meeting attendee spent US$109 per night and stayed an average of seven to eight nights. She said this contributed US$17.8 million to Jamaica’s economy in 2008, which does not include earnings from other industries which may have benefitted from the patronage of MEEC visitors.
“That one person who spent an average of US$109 per night may have bought a piece of art when he was leaving, bought a hot dog at the airport, bought a chain for his daughter, went to Mystic Mountain and rode on the bob sled, or went to Passa Passa and enjoyed himself and bought a Heineken or a Red Stripe. But that is what this industry can lead to, linkages to several other industries and ensuring that when visitors come here, they spend on average more currency than if they had just come for a visit,” she illustrated.
Ms. Cadogan said that while Jamaica does not even fall within the top 100 MEEC destinations, the potential is there to become one of the top destinations, in light of the fact that neighbouring country, Trinidad and Tobago, is currently placed in the top 20.
The forum, which formed part of the students’ assessment, was held under the theme: ‘Positioning Jamaica in the Global Meeting, Exhibition, Events and Convention Industry’.