(JIS) – UNWTO Conference: When Jamaica welcomes the international community for the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference later this month, the spotlight will be on the Montego Bay Convention Centre, which is the host venue for the event.
The Convention Centre’s Director of Sales, Mavoy Smith, tells JIS News that the facility, situated along the picturesque Rose Hall corridor, which boasts a historic great house and elegant hotels, is ready for what will be a huge global event.
She notes that while the buzz surrounding the November 27 to 29 conference has indeed placed some added pressure on the centre’s management and staff to deliver, “we are more than ready to show the world that Jamaica has a world-class facility capable of hosting high-profile conferences”.
“The UNWTO conference is being billed as the biggest tourism conference to ever be staged in the Americas (and) it is not a stretch to say that we are as prepared as we could ever be,” she says.
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“We have been prepping for this for quite some time, and, with just three weeks to go, we are ready to demonstrate to a global audience our true mettle and why we have consistently been voted the Best Convention Centre in the Caribbean by the prestigious World Travel Awards,” Ms. Smith adds.
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Renovations have just been completed at a cost of $184 million to enable the meeting rooms to accommodate more persons.
The UNWTO conference is being hosted by both the Government of Jamaica and the World Bank Group.
In attendance will be tourism and government ministers from countries worldwide, as well as representatives from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Organization of American States and a number of key regional organisations such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, in noting the importance of the conference, says it will be an opportunity to cement Jamaica as “a global conference destination”
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, in a recent interview with JIS News, informed that some 800 tourism decision makers worldwide will be flying in for the conference, noting that “all eyes will be on the tourism capital of Montego Bay”.
“The region, and, by extension, the Americas, has never seen anything like this. There has never been a gathering of this nature, of key leaders in tourism who will be looking at best practices and how we can bring ideas and resources together. We want to look at how we can map out a blueprint of the future development of tourism, not just in the Caribbean but in the world,” he added.
The Minister said the conference will also explore partnerships through sustainable tourism.
“It will focus on jobs and growth. It will also see leaders of the cruise industry sitting at the same table with their land-based counterparts, discussing critical matters related to tourism,” he pointed out.
Ms. Smith tells JIS News that the convention facility, while never having hosted anything of the magnitude of the UNWTO, has been hosting its fair share of high-profile events in recent times.
These include FOROMIC 2016; the 46th Annual Meeting of the Caribbean Development Bank Board of Governors; Caribbean Hoopfest; Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPAEX) 2017; Latin Finance’s second Caribbean Finance and Investment Forum; The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission’s Caribbean Gaming Show and Summit 2017; the Build Expo and Conference; and the Jamaica Bridal Expo.
“The number of attendees coming through the Convention Centre for various international and local meetings and conventions has also climbed significantly,” Ms. Smith informs.
“Attendees for fiscal year 2015/16 numbered 34,300 while fiscal year 2016/17 recorded 88,800 attendees – an increase of 159 per cent. We… have improved by leaps and bounds in recent times,” she says.
Ms. Smith tells JIS News that the facility recently hired a national sales manager, who is based in Washington DC in the United States “close to the seat of power” and will be able to strategically promote Jamaica and the Montego Bay Convention Centre as the “place to come and do business”.
“What the UNWTO conference will do is to make the job of our national sales manager a lot easier,” she points out.
“This conference will be garnering a lot of international attention and is bound to capture the imagination of some powerful lobbyists in Washington, who may have been looking for somewhere outside the Beltway and the country to host a conference or a high-profile meeting” she points out.
“What we are and will be saying to them is to look no further. We have it all here at the Montego Bay Convention Centre,” she adds.
The J$45-million Montego Bay Convention Centre officially opened in 2011 as a venue for conventions, trade shows, banquets and theatre-style conferences.
With 142,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, the facility is the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.
It was constructed by the Government of Jamaica in response to the growing need for first-class meeting and convention facilities on the island.
The Convention Centre has been rebounding after a period of losses, with revenue improving by 65 per cent over the nine-month period up to July. “We have turned around a projected loss of US$2 million to J$40 million,” Minister Bartlett said.
Contributed by Errol Smith