JAMPRO’s Business Linkages Programme gives SMEs a boost at JAPEX

Ocho Rios, Jamaica – The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) led Business Linkages Programme at the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) tourism trade show, which was held at the Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios from September 30th – October 2nd, has left a number of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) pleased with the results.

JAMPRO introduced a Business Linkages Programme at JAPEX last year, which matches and connects local producers of a range of goods and services to buyers and purchasing managers in the hotel sector. The event brought out 36 quality local suppliers to the JAPEX floor to showcase their goods and services, and to negotiate business deals with over 100 expected buyers from the tourism and hospitality sector.

For some of the suppliers it was their first time at the event and they managed to achieve positive results. The Ocho Rios-based Nahte Gems, makers of unique handmade jewelry, was a popular booth on the JAPEX floor – not only with buyers, but with visitors who were staying at the hotel. Sales and Marketing Officer at Nahte Gems, Ashlei McFarlane commented, “It has been a positive first time at the Business Linkages Programme. We have made links with hotels and gift shops and persons have been coming by and we’re made a lot of sales. Over the three days we’ve had to continually re-stock.”

According to Mcfarlane the one-year-old company has made strong business linkages with the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios and the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, among others. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, walked the floor at JAPEX on Tuesday, October 2 and was impressed with the showcase by Nahte, purchasing items for herself on the spot. Nahte Designer and Owner Barbra Mcfarlane added, “It has been a success just being here. There has been really positive feedback.”

Another newcomer to JAMPRO’s Business Linkages Event is Bellina Jamaica Ltd (Wassi Art). Nicolette Carter, Operations Manager for the company explained that not only did they sell a number of custom made art and craft on spot, but they also made important linkages. “It has been fantastic,” Carter said. “It has been a great portal to the wider world of marketing for a small business. It helps to create networks and links.”

Carter explained that the Business Linkages event also helped to re-connect with previous buyers. “We’ve had a couple of good meetings and spoke to people and renewed old interest,” she said. Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Anthony Hylton, was interested in the display from Wassi Arts purchasing two items while he toured the floor on Sunday, September 30th following JAPEX’s opening ceremony.

David Riley, Chief Executive Officer at Interactive Voice Solutions, found his experience at the Business Linkages Programme to be an interesting one. Interactive Voice Solutions has participated for the second year. He said, “We are trying to get more into the hospitality area, which is why we’re here, so it has been interesting.”

Gary Wisdom, Marketing Officer at Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, has participated in the JAMPRO programme at JAPEX for the past two years. “We’ve seen most of the people we came to see and gotten some kind of contact. We meet a few people and connected with businesses who for some reason or another we’ve lost contact.”

JAPEX is billed as the single most important business generator for Jamaica’s tourism industry and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) estimates that over 800 travel agents and tour operators were present to do business with the leaders and players in the Jamaican hospitality and accommodations sector.

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