Jamaica Gleaner / WESTERN BUREAU:
Again, travel agents have proven how important their contribution is to Jamaica’s tourism industry by selling thousands of room nights worth millions of dollars.in revenue to the country
The top 50 producing agents were recognised by the Jamaica Tourist Board at their all-white Travel Specialist Rewards ceremony at Moon Palace Jamaica in Ocho Rios, St Ann, earlier this month.
The agents, representing the United States, the island’s largest source market, Canada and the United Kingdom combined, sold over 130,000 room nights, earning US$39 million for the country.
The news comes at a time when the questions are still being asked about the relevance of these traditional agents as online booking agencies disrupt the market.
“What we can say categorically is that Jamaica needs travel agents, and we are about to revamp the current travel specialist programme, making it better,” interim Director of Tourism Donnie Dawson told the gathering.
Pointing out that Jamaica was experiencing a phenomenal year, Dawson said the island had welcomed more than 220,000 stopover visitors from the UK, topping the Caribbean as the number-one destination for Brits.
This is a position that was held by Barbados for decades.
The woman who was named top Agent of the Year, Lindsey Johnson of Tropical Travel Agency, in Paducah, Kentucky, USA, said Jamaica was an easy sell for her after 12 years of specialising in the destination.
“People will call for other destinations, and I tell them, ‘You really wanna go to Jamaica’,” she told The Gleaner .
Single-handedly, she sold 14,000 of the 130,000 room nights, grossing an average of US$7 million.
Johnson sells mainly Jewel Resorts, RIU, Iberostar, Hilton and Sandals vacations.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, who lauded the agents, credited them for their performance in helping the country to move the Canadian market from -17 per cent when he took office almost two years ago. “Canada is up eight per cent,” he told the gathering, adding that Jamaica’s tourism success was about strategic partnerships.
“Success is a result of the efforts of the Jamaica Tourist Board and its partners,” he stated.