Caribbean Marketplace Report 2011

Held in Montego Bay, Jamaica, this year’s Caribbean Marketplace focuses on recent and future developments throughout the region By: Mark Rogers
David Dodwell, owner Nisbet Plantation Beach Club in Nevis and The Reefs Hotel & Club in Bermuda, was named Caribbean Hotelier of the Year....
David Dodwell, owner Nisbet Plantation Beach Club in Nevis and The Reefs Hotel & Club in Bermuda, was named Caribbean Hotelier of the Year. Pictured from left to right: Peter C. Yesawich of Ypartnership; Dodwell; and Josef Forstmayr and Alec Sanguinetti of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association // © 2011 Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association

The Details

One of the major pieces of news at last month’s Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Caribbean Marketplace 2011, held in Montego Bay, Jamaica, was the opening of the new Montego Bay Convention Centre.

Throughout the final months leading up to marketplace, work on the new convention center proceeded at a furious pace. At last May’s JAPEX, TravelAge West asked John Lynch, chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board, if Jamaica had a back-up plan in case the convention center would not be open in time for the Caribbean Marketplace 2011. Lynch’s memorable answer was: “There is no plan B.”

In fact, Jamaica made the deadline, and the marketplace took place without a major hitch, although it was much like a soft opening at a hotel, with small glitches in evidence.

“The total facility is about 80 percent complete; we have breakout rooms that still need to be completed,” said Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism.

The island is proud that it now has a world-class convention facility that can attract major meetings and exhibitions. Quick specs are as follows: exhibition space can accommodate 4,000 people, the banquet hall has a total capacity of 2,000 guests, and nine flexible meeting rooms can accommodate up to 700 persons. The convention center is about a 15-minute drive from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport.

Minister Bartlett noted that the Mobay region — the area between the airport and the new convention center, which is studded with five-star properties and championship golf courses — will be branded, “The Elegant Corridor.”

The figures for this year’s marketplace were impressive. It had the third-largest attendance over the past decade with 1,518 delegates as compared to 1,362 in 2010. This spike over last year’s figures points to 2011 being a year of increases for the Caribbean.

“All of us have felt the impact of the economic crisis over the past two years, but we have much reason to be optimistic,” said Josef Forstmayr, president of the Caribbean Hotels & Tourism Association. “At the Caribbean Marketplace 2011, we have more buyers that have come to meet with hotels and tourist offices than last year, an indication that business is coming back.”

The Return of Air Jamaica
There was an enthusiastic response to the announcement that Air Jamaica will once again take to the skies. As most agents know, last year, Air Jamaica was acquired by Caribbean Airlines and, for all intents and purposes, was absorbed into the Trinidad-based carrier. Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines will now operate as two strong brands joined together in one airline to serve Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Air Jamaica will be dedicated to flying routes into and out of Montego Bay and Kingston, Jamaica to New York (JFK), Philadelphia, Toronto, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in North America, and Nassau in the Bahamas. Caribbean Airlines, with its hub in the Port of Spain, Trinidad, flies to New York (JFK), Philadelphia, Toronto, Ftort Lauderdale and Miami in North America; St. Maarten, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Tobago and Kingston in the Caribbean; Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela in South America.

There was additional airline news at marketplace. Jakes, an Island Outpost property on Jamaica’s south coast, opened the Lionel Densham Aerodrome. Flights to the private airstrip will consist of private charters, all part of a VIP package that includes a complimentary bottle of champagne and spa treatments. Rates start at $275 per night for VIP flight and stay packages.

The Ian Fleming International Airport, Jamaica’s third international airport, was officially opened last month. The airport, which is five miles from Ocho Rios, has undergone a series of developments to accommodate the arrival of private international aircraft as large as the Dash-8.

Hotel News
During the opening ceremonies at Caribbean Marketplace 2011, David Dodwell, owner of The Reefs Hotel & Club in Bermuda and Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis, was recognized as the 2010 “Caribbean Hotelier of the Year,” an award co-sponsored by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and Ypartnership.

After a year of setbacks and delays, The Palmyra, a Solis Resort & Spa has finally opened in Montego Bay, with two of its three towers completed. When fully open the upscale EP hotel will feature 299 suites.

“We will specialize in standout service for the luxury market and will be comparable to Round Hill and Half Moon,” said Dominique Peterkin, director of sales, the Palmyra, a Solis Resort & Spa.

AMResorts announced plans for four new resorts in 2012-13, in the upscale area of Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic. The properties will be Secrets Cap Cana, Zoetry Gems Cap Cana, Now Pearl and Now Emerald. Upon completion, these four properties will total 1,103 suites. Beyond the Caribbean, AMResorts will also open a Secrets Huatulco in 2011, and the company reconfirmed that it has its eye on building a resort on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.

The new Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa on St. Lucia has opened its doors to guest. The all-inclusive 3½-star resort was previously part of the Almond Resorts portfolio.

At last year’s Caribbean Marketplace, Choice Hotels International made the announcement that they would open two hotels in Haiti. The timing of this announcement couldn’t have been worse, since a scant 24 hours after the announcement Haiti was rocked by a devastating earthquake.

“These deals are still under contract, although for obvious reasons they are way behind schedule,” said Bill Clegg, regional vice president, brand performance and programs, Choice Hotels International.

Clegg also announced a new Ascend Collection hotel, the Royale Caribbean Resort & Spa, slated to open in 2011. Target destinations for further reach into the Caribbean include Jamaica, U.S. Virgin Islands, Barbados, The Bahamas and Bermuda.
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