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Jamaica Withdraws From Marketplace Contest

Decision gives San Juan chance to host event


February 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

KINGSTON, Jamaica--The venue for the 2006 Caribbean Marketplace is apparently up for grabs as a result of the recent decision by Jamaica to withdraw from the race, tourism officials confirmed.

The decision will result in bids being presented by a number of other places in the region with the final decision expected by March from the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA).

The January event represents a big chunk of business and results in valuable exposure in the tourism markets in North America and Europe, from which most of the 20 million-a-year-plus visitors to the Caribbean originate.

There are several challenges to hosting Marketplace. Few destinations in the region have large enough meeting facilities or sufficient rooms to handle the more than 1,500 delegates who attend. In recent years, host venues have been limited to Cancun, Mexico; or Nassau, the Bahamas; or San Juan. Jamaica had not hosted the event for two decades.

Jamaica snared Marketplace this year and displaced San Juan by pulling out all the stops. Its government and private sector raised more than $1.4 million to underwrite the event, even bringing in a 45,000-square-foot air-conditioned tent from Miami to hold the meeting.

The gold-ribbon event got high marks from most in attendance and when it ended, many Jamaicans in the tourism industry were hot on having it again next year. But a month later, when the massive China Trade Forum & Expo was held in Kingston, both business and government leaders said Jamaica has bowed out.

Tent prompts withdrawal

The biggest problem turned out to be the tent. The Jamaica Hotel & Tourism Association (JHTA), the lead private-sector group involved, negotiated its rental last month. To keep the tent, the JHTA had to rent it long term or buy it for $800,000.

The Florida supplier was reportedly prepared to credit the rental fees to the purchase price but wanted the JHTA to assume the cost of air conditioning to prevent mildew. But then two other problems arose to complicate the situation.

One was buying a generator, which aren’t available in Jamaica and would be costly. The tent is on the grounds of the renowned Half Moon Resort. The hotel reportedly wanted the JHTA to pay a rental fee and cover costs for walkways and other modifications for the site.

Other questions arose over who would operate the facility and assume the costs of insurance.

After considerable deliberations, the JHTA scrapped the whole idea of a second Marketplace.

San Juan has a chance to bid for the 2006 Marketplace, because the new Puerto Rico Convention Center is expected to be ready by the end of November. It would need to submit a bid to host the event by the March deadline.

Other sites that also could jump into the contest include the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Cancun.

Some San Juan hoteliers aren’t very excited about hosting the event. They worry about losing room revenues in January, now a peak month with high occupancy and top-dollar rates. Conference delegates typically get deep discounts.

Meanwhile, it has been learned the Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference (CHIC) will be held this June in Miami, following several years at El Conquistador in Fajardo. The event, which focuses on hotel investment and development, usually attracts about 800 delegates.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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