BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment email@example.com
OCHO RIOS, ST Ann — The 22nd staging of the local premier tourism trade show Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), which got underway here Sunday at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios St Ann, is again being billed as one of the largest showing of local and overseas tourism players.
President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Evelyn Smith says more than 600 delegates — consisting of buyers, suppliers, travel agents and media practitioners from all the major tourism markets — are assembled in Ocho Rios for the event.
The more than 3,000 appointment requests that have been made this year, Smith said, represents a 29 per cent increase over 2011, with confirmed appointments prior to the start of the event moving from 1,833 at JAPEX 2011 to 2,129. This, she said, represents a 16 per cent increase.
"This does not include the many informal meetings which take place across the trade show floor and at our social functions," Smith told attendees during the opening ceremony of the three-day event.
She said that more than 50 per cent of the local sub-sectors of Jamaica's tourism, which include the small accommodations, attractions and transportations, are represented at the trade show.
The success of JAPEX, she added, is critical not just for tourism, but also for its impact on the wider Jamaican economy.
"The Oxford Economics Study commissioned by the JHTA earlier this year notes that our industry employs one in four persons either directly or indirectly, and as a major consumer of goods and services from every industry in our country, contributes 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product," she explained.
Meanwhile, Smith said the JHTA's commitment to maximising the lucrative linkages which exist between tourism and other industries is reaffirmed through the partnership with the Jamaica Promotions Company (JAMPRO).
"For the second year, we in the tourism industry are pleased to welcome local business partners in agriculture, manufacturing, information technology, publishing and arts and craft to participate in our premier local tourism marketing event," she said.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton, in his address, said cultivating strong, lasting business linkages through the facilitation services of JAMPRO, was now firmly entrenched in JAPEX's development agenda.
He noted that through JAMPRO's facilitation of business match-making sessions between suppliers and buyers, business deals and contracts amounting to more than $100 million were secured at last year's JAPEX in Montego Bay.
"At this year's show, JAMPRO has brought some 38 quality local suppliers to the JAPEX floor to showcase their goods and services, and to negotiate business deals with over 100 confirmed institutional buyers," Hylton said.
Local suppliers, he further explained, are showcasing goods and services based on needs analysis. These include meats, beverages, baked goods, chemicals, cosmetics, sauces and spices, fresh produce, furniture, gift and craft items, uniforms, apparel, in addition to information communication technology-related services.
"The products on display are of a very high quality and the suppliers have been selected to take into account the varied needs of the buyers across the hospitality sector including hoteliers, villas, gift shops, attractions, and restaurants," Hylton said.
As such, the minister said even stronger results are expected out of this year's event even as he urged property and gift shop operators as well as overseas tour operators to meet with the various suppliers of local goods and services over the next two days.
For his part, Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill said the large number of international delegates was proof of the attractiveness of Jamaica's tourism product and the strength of brand Jamaica on the international scene.
Notwithstanding the global environment, the minister said the sector continues to flourish and the investment prospects for the industry have been positive with several hotels planning to expand or construct new properties in the near future.