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Last month, during the 21st annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) in Montego Bay, much of the buzz was about the enhanced tour product offered by various suppliers on the island. Two of Jamaica's heavyweight operators, Chukka Caribbean Adventures and Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours, are among the companies offering new experiences to Jamaica visitors.
Chukka Caribbean Adventures Embraces Good Hope EstateChukka has been in the game since 1983, owned and operated by one of Jamaica's most famous tourism families, the Melvilles. Chukka was the first company to offer the iconic horseback ride through the sea tour. Additional tour options from the company include everything from zipline experiences to 4X4 safaris exploring Bob Marley's birthplace at the village of Nine Mile. Chukka has garnered attention from agents with its launch of the Good Hope Estate as a central staging area for many of its tours. The Good Hope Estate is only about 20 minutes away from the historical Port of Falmouth, which last year began receiving port of calls from such ships as Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.
"The opening of the Falmouth Port is essential to new Chukka product," said Marc Melville, managing director of Chukka Caribbean Adventures.
The impact is reflected in the company's figures - Chukka is now doing an even split between resort and cruise business, as compared to 60 percent resort business last year.
The Good Hope Estate covers over 2,000 acres of lush green landscape. Tour participants will be treated to marvelous views of the island's unspoiled Cockpit Country from the grounds of the 196 year-old Good Hope Great House. It's an added-value factor that greatly enhances the tour experience.
"We're moving from a 'come and do the tour experience' to a 'come and enjoy the day experience,'" said Blaise Hart, whose family owns Good Hope. "You can have 800 people on the estate participating in tours and not feel crowded."
One of the upcoming additions will be a culinary tour experience inside the Great House dining room.
A recent tweak at Good Hope is a changing area for those who get muddy from active tours such as ATV adventures and river tubing. Chukka has also launched a nanny service and added a kids' section that includes a splash pad, water jets and a tree house.
Not all of Chukka's tours at Good Hope are of the adrenaline rush variety - some are as genteel as a horse and carriage ride along the tree-shaded roads of the estate.
"We're always thinking outside of the box," said Paolo Byles, director of cruise and international marketing of Chukka Caribbean Adventures. "We'll be developing products not seen before."
Island Routes Co-Brands with AgentsSince its inception, Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours has been a major player in lifting the quality and sophistication of Jamaica's tour product.
"We're excited about our recent co-branding initiative," said David Shields, general manager of Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours. "We feel it shows our commitment to the travel agent community. It's a seamless operation that allows commission to be paid in 30 to 60 days."
Travel agents can sign up to create their own Island Routes Tours Co-Branded web link by calling 877-768-8370 or by sending an email to [email protected].
Agents can then either make the booking themselves on the Island Routes Tours' Travel Agent Portal, or they can refer their clients to the agency website where track-back links do all the work. When the customer clicks through to the Island Routes Tours website from an agent's referring website, a bar is displayed with referral information, which allows agents to earn commission for any booking within 90 days of that first visit. Travel agents can keep track of their clients' bookings via the Travel Agent Portal, by logging in and generating their own report on demand.
"We're presently in contact with 7,000 travel agents and we'll be building on this," said Shields. "Agents will be critical in building the company."
Shields also noted that the company will be instituting tours focusing on the culture of Jamaica. These tours will explore outside the traditional tourist areas, such as Kingston and Mandeville, using existing venues such as the National Gallery of Jamaica and the Bob Marley Museum.
"Sun, sea and sand are still the lures for the Caribbean brand," said Shields. "More and more, though, customers want a sense of bragging rights about offbeat excursions and unique experiences. At Island Routes, we're seeking to get to the heart and soul of the Caribbean."
Chukka Caribbean Adventureswww.chukkacaribbean.com
Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tourswww.islandroutestours.com
Chukka Caribbean Adventures Marc Melville, managing director, and Paolo Byles, director of cruise and international marketing, at JAPEX. // (c) 2011 Mark Rogers
David Shields, general manager of Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours, at JAPEX. (c) 2011 Mark Rogers