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Big jump in revenues!

MoBay Convention Centre hits jackpot in third anniversary

By Desmond Allen Executive Editor - Special Assignment allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 21, 2014    

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The Montego Bay Convention Centre (MBCC), unkindly termed a white elephant in the past, has hit the jackpot with an impressive 53 per cent jump in revenues over the previous year.

The good news comes on the three-year anniversary of the opening of the centre which was built at Rose Hall east of the scenic northcoast resort city by the state-run Urban Development Corporation (UDC), at the behest of the umbrella Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHRA) in July 2011.

The local hotel grouping used to watch enviously as other destinations walked away with the lion's share of international conventions because of Jamaica's acute shortage of meeting space of world class quality.

MBCC now boasts nearly 59,000 square feet of exhibition space that can accommodate up to 6,000 people theatre style; 10,000 square feet of meeting space; 25,000 square feet of court yard space, all spread over 35 wind-swept acres offering a picturesque view of the ocean in the haunting shadows of arguably Montego Bay's most internationally acclaimed tourist attraction, the Rose Hall Great House.

It offers fully integrated audio/video control system; global broadcast and teleconferencing capabilities from all of its nine meeting rooms; wireless capability throughout the complex; 100 MB high bandwidth, secure Internet service; VOIP and wireless VOIP telephone systems; fibre optic cabling backbone throughout the complex; a state-of-the art kitchen; divisible ballroom; ocean view terrace; business centre and 500 parking spaces, among other amenities. UDC hired Chinese firm COMPLAN to do the construction.

The revenue numbers had General Manager Dittie Guise and her 45-member staff preening, especially after early criticisms that the convention centre was bleeding red ink and represented a drain on the public purse.

"Convention centres are not usually built to make money but for their overall impact on the hotel industry by bringing in people for meetings. But we did 53 per cent better this year than last year because we attracted additional business and strenuously held expenses down by conserving on our use of utilities and moving our landscaping and catering in-house," said Guise who could hardly mask her pride.

Guise said the convention centre which is managed by Philadelphia-based SMG on behalf of the UDC, had been following the expected trajectory from inception. The number of local and international events it hosted had been increasing: 85 in the first nine months of operations; 100 events between 2012 and 2013; 111 events between 2013 and 2014, with 21 events so far this year - a total of 317. The events include the big Diaspora conference; an international cimate change confab; seminars; symposia, star-lit weddings and trade shows. It is now getting ready to host the International Taekwondo Federation.

But Guise admitted in an interview with the Jamaica Observer that the centre was not marketed prior to the start of operations which might have explained a slower than expected start.

"International conventions take two to three years to book. We only started when the centre opened in 2011. But we are seeing the growth in events as a response to the marketing since then. I'm happy to say that we are definitely on the right track," she said.

MBCC growth plans for this year include closer working with the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), the JHTA and Jampro in its marketing thrust. The centre is also getting ready to start construction of offices to host the western operations of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the JTB which is moving from its long time but outmoded Cornwall Beach home nearer the city centre.

The convention centre will also continue its community outreach, having already adopted the Spot Valley High School and accommodating site visits from several schools, said Senior Sales and Marketing Manager Michelle Parkes. She noted that the MBCC had been hosting students of the hospitality management training programme at the University of Technology Jamaica (UTech) and would continue into the foreseeable future because of its positive impact.

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