MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Representatives of the nearly 200 supplier and buyer companies which participated in the first ever Tourism Linkages Speed Networking Event in Jamaica, have hailed the venture as a success and are keen on participating in such events twice per year.
The inaugural event, which was held recently at the Half Moon Conference Centre in Montego Bay gave suppliers 15-minute appointments to make buyers aware of the goods and services they offered with a view to securing purchasing deals.
The organization of the event was spearheaded by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) and other key partners.
Buyer representatives came from small boutique hotels to expansive resort properties, while suppliers included businesses offering a wide range of goods and services. These ranged from suppliers of craft, toiletries and guest amenities, chemicals and cleaning products, cosmetic and spa products, furniture, bedding, food and beverage, uniforms, printing and packaging, construction, training, ICT, electrical, meat and fresh produce.
At the close, the consensus was that it was a very successful event, achieving its objectives and many expressed that it should be held twice yearly.
For Professor Harvey Reid of Country House Products, “it gives the hoteliers an opportunity to find out what is available in Jamaica.”
Kirk Clarke of Altamont Court Hotel had a similar view. “It was very informative on the different products that we manufacture here in Jamaica. I have a better insight on what we do locally and going forward I think it’s very good throughout the industry to ensure that all of us as Jamaicans buy Jamaican and create more jobs and more opportunities.” He also believed that “because everybody cannot be present in one forum, it should be held twice a year.”
“I think it’s a very good initiative because we get to know our vendors better,” said Joan Coore of Half Moon, who said she made some “lasting relationships” and also felt it should be held twice yearly.
Abigail Huxtable was pleased with the response to the many products made by her company, Pear Tree Press. “At first I was a bit apprehensive about it because it takes time for you to get your sales pitch in and you only have 15 minutes but I got a lot done today,” she admitted, adding, “I really enjoyed today and I think it’s something that we should do again.”
Beverley Dendie of Jewel Resorts, admitted, “it’s a good event for us; we’re doing Brand Jamaica and so we’re going local and it’s nice to accommodate our local suppliers.” She would like to see “local suppliers come out more to promote what they do have.”
BH Paints’ Claude Manning also came away feeling, “it has been a very successful event.” He pointed out, “the number of persons I’ve spoken with in one day it normally would have taken me three or four months to get to all those persons.”
He expects that going forward, “not only my company but the other companies here are going to convert this into actual local business sales with the hotels so there will be a greater purchasing from the local manufacturing sector.” He expects that “there will be more of these events going forward to link up with the local users, who in many cases are buying overseas, to drive the economy and drive the growth in the productive sector here.”
President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Nicola Madden-Greig noted that “hotels and attractions already spend millions of dollars annually supporting local industry, including manufacturers and farmers and this event gave them an opportunity to cement those relationships and build new ones. The range of products that can be supplied locally is quite impressive and the suppliers definitely benefited from one-on-one interactions with hoteliers and operators of attractions.” Mrs. Madden-Greig added “we are very pleased with the results of this first event and view it as an investment in our people and Brand Jamaica.”
Project Manager of the Ministry’s Tourism Linkages Hub, Carolyn McDonald-Riley, was pleased with the responses, describing the outcome as remarkable. “I think persons were extremely surprised at the value they got from the event on both sides; the hoteliers were blown away by some of the things offered to them and although some of the suppliers did not get to meet with representatives of some of the properties that they initially wanted, they said that their best meetings were the ones they did not ask for.”
Reacting to suggestions of the event being twice per year, she said the organizers “would go back to the drawing board, make an assessment and decide on the way forward.”
The other entities which partnered to host the event are Sandals Resort International, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC).