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CHA Marketplace In Jamaica A Big Success
Montego Bay wants it again in 2006 as other bidders emerge
By JOHN COLLINS
January 20, 2005
MONTEGO BAY, JamaicaTwo major topics that prevailed at this years Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) Marketplace were, one, the spectacular performance of Jamaica in hosting the event (CB Dec. 20, 2004), and, two, what will be the venue of next years Marketplace to be held in January 2006.
Many of the 835 CHA member properties and representatives of others interested in Caribbean tourism are appreciative of the states that have hosted the event in the past but some of them increasingly would like to see smaller destinations get "a piece of the action" as well since it represents a big chunk of business and tremendous exposure in the markets that send most of the visitors to the region.
Previous Marketplaces have been restricted to larger, more developed destinations like Nassau, the Bahamas, Cancun, Mexico, or San Juan, Puerto Rico because of their conference facilities and numbers of rooms to accommodate the upwards of 2,000 delegates they attract.
Jamaicas north coast has the hotel rooms but lacked a large conference center. It had only hosted the event 20 years ago and was determined to get it again. An impressive cooperation between the government and the private sector resulted in a $1.4 million kitty to underwrite the event and then more backing, both in funding and contributions of gifts-in-kind, followed.
The major portion was for leasing of a 42,000-square-foot air-conditioned tentthe size of a football fieldwhich had to be brought in from Miami and erected on the grounds of the posh Half Moon Resort. It got high marks from the more than 1,500 delegates who were impressed with the feat Jamaica accomplished.
Most Jamaicans attributed the success of the event to the cooperation between of the government and the private sector. The hospitality and teamwork of a broad cross-section of Jamaica impressed the visitors and made Jamaicans proud.
"Your presence indicates the high level of importance you place, like all of us in the tourism industry, on this critical sector of the economy of the entire Caribbean," said Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Patterson at the opening ceremonies.
Jamaica government officials and tourism industry leaders left no doubt they want to host the event again next year. "We are delighted with the success of this Marketplace and look forward to hosting it again next January," said Peter Komposch, Half Moon general manager.
Indicating the tent wont be dismantled, Komposch said, "We have already booked four group conferences during 2005 and intend to utilize the tent for them."
Prime Minister Patterson also announced at the opening ceremonies that President Vicente Fox of Mexico had just advised him Mexico is prepared to arrange a $40 million loan to Jamaica at discretionary rates to underwrite the first conference center at Montego Bay on Jamaicas north coast, long a tourism Mecca. The venture will reportedly take two to three years to complete.
Will Puerto Rico be in the race?
Puerto Rico presumably will be in the race to host the next Marketplace as well although no official announcement to apply for it has been made. Some observers point out the administration of Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá has just taken office and a decision regarding the 2006 Marketplace will follow shortly. Some CHA senior officers expressed concern over whether the new Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC) will be up and running by January 2006. "The PRCC is slated for completion in November 2005 and, barring any unexpected delays, should be ready for business in January 2006," said Ángel LaFontaine, head of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC) team at Marketplace. Reportedly, groups already have been booked for December 2005.
Marketplace could bring upwards of 2,000 delegates to San Juan and inject millions of dollars into Puerto Ricos economy. Yet, some San Juan hoteliers do see some problems. One of them, a big CHA fan, points to the need for hotels to offer deep discounts to delegates during the January peak winter season at a time when they command top dollar. Another indicated his property is already more than 50% booked for next January.
The selection of the venue for the next Marketplace will be made by the end of March by the CHA board of directors. While no official announcements of intentions to apply were made at the event, a number of delegates indicated they will do so. Among them are the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Cancun, Mexico.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.