overwhelming response to speed networking
The inaugural Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association's (JHTA) organised Speed Networking event aimed at broadening relationships between local suppliers and buyers in the tourist industry was oversubscribed.
"We were forced to turn back persons, owing to the overwhelming response from the sector," JHTA President Nicola Madden-Grieg told The Gleaner.
The event, held in collaboration with the Tourism Linkages Council and private sector entities, including, JAMPRO and the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, hosted some 82 suppliers and 52 hotel and attraction operators. This resulted in just under 1,000 appointments and robust negotiations.
"This is my first speed networking event and I feel as if I made at least four substantial leads," Dacia Smith, managing director of AICAD Service Professionals, said. Smith's nine-year-old company specialises in maintaining and caring for marble tiles; the cleaning of drains; kitchen hoods and post-construction clean-up.
The vendors in attendance included, bedding, appliances, agriculture, manufacturing, spa and beauty, chemical and food and beverage.
"Some persons have reached buyers that they have been trying to make appointments with for many years," said Madden-Greig.
The JHTA president cautioned that overseas suppliers to the industry were very aggressively targeting the local market, while some of the things they are offering are right here in the country.
According to her, an event of this nature was the responsible thing to do: "The people who visit Jamaica are coming here for a true Jamaican experience, and not just sun, sea and sand and the warmth of the people; they must be exposed to the quality Jamaican product and services that we offer".
World-class spa products
She pointed out that Jamaica was now offering locally produced world-class spa products, "the packaging is First World, which means we have come a long way".
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr Wykeham McNeill, who officially opened the event, noted that the large turnout was a gratifying demonstration of real commitment to the concept of backward and forward linkages, "which we all realise can make a great contribution to the development of a truly sustainable tourism sector".
Quoting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, McNeill said the "tourism industry provides many opportunities for backward and forward economic linkages, foreign exchange earnings, economic diversification, increased income, employment and poverty reduction".
Lauding the project, he said the collaboration and teamwork of this partnership between the public and private sectors, through the Tourism Linkages Council, was a model which could be replicated throughout the society.