Jamaica's tourism arrivals in 2006 hit the 3 million mark for the first time. It's a destination that could be booked for all clients, although honeymooners, or couples in general, and families comprise two of the island's major demographics.
Transportation: Jamaica's two major airports are the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay and Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. The Kingston airport is larger; both have service from most major U.S. airlines.
Passports and Visas: The new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative mandated by the United States Department of Homeland Security requires that all U.S. citizens and foreign nationals traveling by air provide a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States from the Caribbean.
Tour Operators: Pretty much all major U.S. tour operators sell Jamaica, so agents have plenty of options; here are a few. Jamaica was the top-selling destination for Travel Impressions in 2006. There are about 20 different tours that offer a minimum 11 percent commission and a maximum of 15 percent. Call Barbara Groves, vice president of sales, at 632-845-8000, ext. 2110 for more information.
Apple Vacations sends more than 50,000 people a year to Jamaica. The agent base rate is 10 percent commission (maximum 14 percent) if the booking is made online and 8 percent (maximum 12 percent) if the booking is completed over the phone. Contact Senior Product Manager Bill Kliot at 847-631-2449 for more information.
Funjet Vacations offers commissions to travel agents of up to 15 percent. Activities purchased before travel are commissionable at 10 percent. Dozens of add-on features, including activity and dining packages, are available. Travel agents can speak to reservationists when they call Funjet Vacations at 800-558-3050.
Accommodations: There are plenty of quality all-inclusive properties in Jamaica. Home-Based Travel Agent had the opportunity to recently visit two SuperClubs resorts: Grand Lido, Negril and Hedonism II.
Grand Lido, Negril has 210 junior suites and offers agents a 20 percent commission. The Garden View Suites are the best rooms, particularly for clients who enjoy quiet, calm surroundings. Depending on the season, these suites range from $234 to $359 per night. For bookings or further information, agents can call 876-957-5010 and ask to speak with Nicola Barrett, reservations manager.
Hedonism II is also recommended, but be very clear with your clients that this resort does its best to live up to the true definition of hedonism. Its everything goes philosophy (and more) was on display when Home-Based Travel Agent witnessed a naked conga line. There wasn't one person on that line who wasn't smiling. The best rooms at the resort, which offers a 10 percent commission, are the eight Ocean View Au Natural Jacuzzi Terrace rooms. These rooms range in price from $215 to $285. For bookings, call 876-957-5200 and ask for Katrina White, reservations manager.
All of the "treehouse-style" guest rooms at Negril's Sunset at the Palms Resort & Spa have Asian-inspired furnishings, gauzy linens, deep wood furniture and natural fibers. Agents get a 10 percent commission and the best are rooms 414 and 415 because they are extremely private. For more information, call Sharon Powell, resident manager, at 876-957-5350.
Restaurants: The variety of cuisines HBTA tasted at the restaurants at Grand Lido, Negril was terrific. Most restaurants require reservations and have a dress code.
If clients want to venture beyond their resort, here are two other recommended Negril eateries. At Pirates Cave Bar & Restaurant, guests can jump off of the cliffs and snorkel during the day, then relax at a cliffside table for a lobster dinner ($22, the most expensive meal). Popular amongst visiting New Yorkers, Rick's Café is more expensive than Pirates Cave, and has a more extensive menu.
• Apple Vacations www.applevacations.com
• Chukka Caribbean Adventures in Montego Bay www.chukkacaribbean.com
• Funjet Vacations www.funjet.com
• Grand Lido, Negril www.grandlidonegril.com
• Hedonism II www.hedonismresorts.com
• Travel Impressions www.travelimpressions.com
• Montego Bay Sangster International Airport www.montego-bay-mbj.airports-guides.com/mbj_airport_airlines.html
• Norman Manley International Airport www.manleyairport.com.jm/contact.htm
• Pirates Cave Bar & Restaurant www.piratescavenegril.com
• Rick's Café www.rickscafejamaica.com/history.php
• The Riverwalk www.riverwalkatmayfield.com/specification.html
• Sunset at the Palms Resort and Spa, Negril www.sunsetatthepalms.com