MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica –What do you call 500 agents in Jamaica?
A good start.
Or as far as the Jamaica Tourist Board’s recent fam series to Montego Bay goes, an excellent conclusion.
Travel Agent was on hand this past weekend for the last of four fam trips, which included 500 agents each, to Montego Bay from September to early October, and chatted it up with the higher-ups of the Jamaica Tourist Board to get their reaction to the largest series of fam trips ever hosted in the country.
Like the first three fams, this latest trip brought 500 agents to the island, bringing the total amount of agents sent to Jamaica to 2,000, the most agents ever sent to Jamaica in a roughly one-month time frame.
“We’ve never done something like this before, so it’s a great feeling to see that it couldn’t have gone any better,” Director of Tourism John Lynch told Travel Agent. “Agents are very excited about selling Jamaica. We know that agents are the backbone of our tourism industry and with programs like this, we are making sure it stays that way.”
“The timing for these fams could not have come at a better time,” says Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, referring to the fact that Jamaica experienced some bad press in late May when gang-related riots got violent in Kingston, to say the least.
“We needed (agents) to come here and see that what happened a few months ago is in the past and will stay in the past,” Bartlett told Travel Agent. “This is by far the most aggressive we have been with travel agents. And it’s for a good reason. Agents are the ones who helped us through that tough period and agents are the ones who made Jamaica tourism what it is today.”
The 2,000-agent fly-in, was the culmination of the JTB’s Wish You Were Here Education Series. Agents were flown to the island to experience and learn first-hand about the new product offerings found in the various resort areas.
The fly-ins were part of a campaign to maintain awareness and bookings to Jamaica during the fall and winter seasons. The fams took place September 10-13, September 17-20, September 24-27 and October 1-4. The host hotel companies for the event included Secrets Resorts & Spa, Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inn, Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts and Iberostar Hotels & Resorts.
“The feedback we have gotten has been terrific,” said Wayne Cummings, president of Jamaica’s Hotel and Tourist Association. “We felt it was so important to have these agents come to Jamaica and see that everything was fine. In the long road, everything that took place (in Kingston) will help us in the long road. We will be much safer for it. But having the agents see for themselves that the tourist destinations like Mo-Bay (Montego Bay) are still functioning normally is the most important thing we could have done.”
And the fact that Jamaica’s hotel product is as hot as it’s ever been didn’t hurt either.
“The recession created a new consumer,” Cumming says. “People are more aware of the value of their dollar. These deals and values may never go away. This may be a new way of life for resorts now. Or they need to upgrade or add new amenities. The demands of the consumer have increased and we need to meet those demands. Jamaica’s hotels do just that.”
Be sure to keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more reports from our visit to Montego Bay as well as Ocho Rios.