"We appreciate our travel agent partners": Q&A with JTB's Angella Bennett
Angella Bennett (photo credit George Pimentel Photography)

“We appreciate our travel agent partners”: Q&A with JTB’s Angella Bennett

TORONTO — Always a key partner for the Canadian travel trade – and no more so than during the pandemic years — the Jamaica Tourist Board is working as hard as ever to keep Jamaica front and centre wth travel agents, and travellers.

Last night’s high-energy industry event at the Bob Marley One Love Experience in Toronto, and a new booking incentive for travel advisors marking Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of independence, are just two many new initiatives from the JTB.

Angella Bennett, Regional Director, Jamaica Tourist Board Canada, took some time out of her busy schedule to give Travelweek readers an update on the latest arrival stats and more from the Canadian market, as bookings and travel to Jamaica surge amid Canada’s eased travel measures.

Q. This is a big year for Jamaica, as it celebrates 60 years of independence. The JTB is marking the occasion with a booking incentive for its Canadian travel advisor partners. Why was it important for the JTB to reward its travel agent partners as part of the 60th diamond jubilee celebrations?

Bennett: “Canadian travel advisors have always been a big part of Jamaica’s success and deserve to be recognized for their hard work and dedication. We especially appreciate our agent partners for their loyalty during the pandemic and in this ongoing recovery period, so wanted to present this special Diamond Jubilee booking incentive as a way of saying thank you during this celebratory year.”

 

Q. It’s so great that travel has reopened from Canada, so travellers can finally vacation in much-loved destinations like Jamaica. What positive stats can you share about bookings and travel from Canada to Jamaica as travel continues to recover?

Bennett: “Jamaica is recovering well with the US market coming in strongest followed by Canada. From January to June of this year we have seen 1.3 million arrivals to Jamaica compared to 2019 at 1.6 percent – so we are just 13 percent shy of 2019 numbers. For the 2022 summer period, which runs from late June to the end of August, the JTB is projecting that the island will welcome approximately 800,000 visitors with destination earnings exceeding US $1.1 billion.

“Right now the travel sector is upbeat and momentum is good with strong sales in the Caribbean. We’re also seeing an upswing in our more luxurious offerings  and higher end categories. There’s definitely a surge in travel, the industry is resilient and recovering extremely well.”

 

Q. Any quick resort news that agents should know about? 

Bennett: “Currently about 8,000 new hotel rooms are either in development or should start construction within months. A few of these projects include the 2,000 room Princess Resort in Hanover, on the western end of the island between Negril and Montego Bay, which is currently in construction and will become Jamaica’s largest resort. We’re also completing just under 1,000 rooms by Sandals and Beaches in St. Ann near Ocho Rios, and the new RIU Aquarelle in Trelawny has broken ground and will boast 700 rooms. There will also be a massive expansion of Bahia Principe by Grupo Pinero out of Spain, and we should have more details on their plans soon.”

 

Q. The JTB was front and centre during the pandemic, with webinars and more to keep agents engaged and in the loop with selling Jamaica. Are you seeing that pay off now with an even deeper connection between the JTB and its agent partners, and are there any trade initiatives that the JTB started during the pandemic that it will keep?

Bennett: “We are very proud of our successful, online Irie hour, which started during the onset of the pandemic and is still ongoing twice monthly.  Through our Irie Hour we have grown a dedicated community of travel agents that are highly educated and inspired in all things Jamaica, including promotions, new or changing protocols, flights and new developments. Our travel advisor Facebook community has grown to over 3,000 active agent members and we continue to develop new content, incentives (like our current 60 Days and 60 Nights promotion) to keep things fresh.”