Built 39 years ago to house and host the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the Jamaica Conference Centre has morphed into so much more. It still welcomes the ISA twice per year but today it’s also seen as a prime location for everything from intimate gatherings and corporate events to sittings of the nation’s Parliament — if needed. Acting conference centre manager, Tyrell Morgan sums it up quite well. For him, the conference centre is a place where things get done.
He’s especially proud that they’re the preferred venue for the biennial diaspora conferences.
“To me that has been powerful. Many other projects spring up in Jamaica because when they meet, they look at investment in the hospitals, schools… We have been the brain box of the world for a long time. A lot of decisions have been made here and documents have been signed,” he tells LetsTravelCaribbean.com during a recent visit.
Located on Port Royal Street in downtown Kingston, the centre overlooks the waterfront and elements of the sea have been incorporated into the design. Along with sprites carved into locally sourced wood, the interior is a pleasing blend of natural elements: sisal-covered sound absorbent walls, ceilings transformed into works of art through the addition of strategically placed straw baskets, and a generous display of clay ornaments. On the outside, intricate stonework competes for attention with a lush garden.
Designed by architect Patrick Stanigar, the conference centre was constructed by the Urban Development Corporation in a record time of 12 months. It was officially opened by The Queen.
“It was a complex project that saw thousands of workers and hundreds of companies locally and internationally being coordinated. The dream was to have the international standards but… Jamaican in feeling, theme, look, presentation and art,” explains Morgan.
“Through some of the rooms you will notice unique architecture, almost like art forms, because they had to use Jamaican material. They also tried to incorporate sea elements in the architecture so you will see some of the motifs referring to sea creatures,” he adds.
There’s ample space throughout the venue for those looking for the perfect spot. There are five conference rooms — the largest, the Kenneth Rattray Conference Room, can accommodate up to 1,200 guests. There are also three smaller rooms that can be used for caucuses. These are all supported by a reception foyer and dining block along with several lounges and office spaces.
COVID-19 slashed the conference centre’s business by 75 per cent, but it’s slowly recovering, starting with hybrid events. Earlier this year, for example, the ISA’s 27th session wrapped up 10 days of meetings at the venue.
“They have bi-annual meetings in March and July where over 100 countries come here and so we have six translation facilities to help in the language process. The attention of the world in that sector turns on the Jamaica Conference Centre, so we have to provide a high quality experience,” says Morgan.
That focus on quality has translated into a long list of accolades. The conference centre copped the Governor General’s Award for Excellence in 1983, was named by World Travel Awards as the Caribbean’s Leading Conference Centre in 2001, 2002, and 2007 and the Caribbean’s Leading Meetings and Conference Centre in 2010.
How to book:
Visit the website www.jamaicaconference.com
Or find the centre on Facebook and Instagram @jamaicaconferencecentre.
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON