Completed Montego Bay Conference Centre raises expectations for tourism sector
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
WITH THE completion of the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Jamaica has made a giant step in establishing itself as a serious contender in the business-tourism market.
The facility, which is the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean and second in the region behind Puerto Rico, has joined a host of regions, including Asia, Europe and the United States, with its convention offering.
"We have very high expectations. This facility puts Jamaica in an advantageous position to capitalise on what is a growing market, globally," said General Manager Dittie Guise during a media launch at the Rose Hall facility last week.
Guise, whose experience in the management of such facilities spans more than 30 years and three convention centres across the US, refused to give a projection on Jamaica's performance in the market.
Nonetheless, she is of the view that, while tourism is driven by the seasons, convention and business travellers will make Montego Bay a year-round destination, which has already attracted interest from as far as South Africa.
The US$50-million complex, which was funded by the Government and the EXIM Bank of China, consists of, among other features, a 56,788-sq ft exhibition hall; 10,367 sq ft with nine multi-purpose meeting rooms; an 18,845-sq ft ballroom, divisible into three spaces; and a 15,000-sq ft state-of-the-art kitchen and catering facility. It will also open up a wide range of possibilities for large-scale musical productions and shows.
International researchers have valued the economic impact of the US$280-billion convention-and-meeting industry at US$122.3 billion worldwide.
Total direct spending sees 35 per cent of that amount spent in hotels, 24 per cent in air transportation, 14.5 per cent in food and beverage, while business services take the remaining 12 per cent.
The facility, which is owned by the Urban Development Company (UDC) and is operated by SMG Worldwide Entertainment and Convention Venue Management Company, also boasts the latest in audio-visual technology and telecommunications capability.
The Gleaner understands that the convention centre's economic impact is expected to generate approximately US$10 million annually - increasing by 10 per cent annually, thereafter.
"It already created 30 full-time and 20 part-time jobs, and is projected to create more jobs in future years," commented UDC General Manager Joy Douglas, in an earlier press release.