When the Montego Bay Convention Centre opened its doors in 2011, it took a while to convince Jamaicans that the venue was something they actually needed.
As the facility’s director of sales and events, Mavoy Smith-Robb explains, “Jamaicans like hotels, they like to know that they are sleeping upstairs, and they run downstairs to their meetings.”
Once on board in 2013, she and her colleagues worked to prove why the 139, 302-square-foot venue was a good idea.
“We went through some teething pains and it took some time for Jamaicans, on the whole, to start appreciating meeting away from a hotel and coming into a space where serious business happens,” Smith-Robb tells LetsTravelCaribbean.com during a recent visit.
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The convention centre is strategically placed in Rose Hall, Montego Bay, with a long list of well-known hotels nearby. It falls under the Ministry of Tourism and is a vital plank in efforts to position Brand Jamaica as a force to be reckoned with within the lucrative meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market. The popular venue boasts well-manicured grounds, spectacular views (a glimpse of the ocean out front and lush mountains as a backdrop), delectable meals prepared in what is believed to be Jamaica’s largest kitchen space (18,000 square feet), and excellent staff.
Ten years – 2011 to 2020— of being named the Caribbean’s leading meeting and conference centre by the prestigious World Travel Award is proof of their hard work. Years 2016 and 2018 were their best ever; that’s when each week would see them hosting about four major local or international events with thousands of guests. Then came COVID-19 and it all ground to a halt. In June of last year the tourism sector slowly began to recover and they got back into the game. Now they’re up to about two events a week. These are often smaller than the ones skilfully hosted pre-COVID-19, and they’re often a blend of in-person and virtual attendance.
That changes next month.
From June 13 to 17, the convention centre will once again take centre stage as the venue for the highly anticipated World Free Zone Conference Annual International Conference and Exhibition (AICE).
“We are one month out. And we are excited that we will get the opportunity to host this conference. It’s going to be pretty much the biggest international conference that Jamaica will execute, since the pandemic, here in Montego Bay. I’m excited that the Montego Bay Convention Centre will get an opportunity to be a part of that,” says Smith-Robb.
She anticipates that the event will use “every nook and cranny” of their 10,000 square feet of meeting space, offered in nine venues (each has everything it needs to be autonomous) joined by covered walkways.
With COVID-19 numbers once again climbing as Jamaica goes through a fifth wave, the convention centre is committed to ensuring that AICE is held safely, just like it has successfully executed other events since reopening last June. There’s also a backup plan to make the event hybrid if needed. But the ultimate goal is to get back to the hustle and bustle on site that Smith-Robb and her team have become used to over the years.
Along with its nine meeting spaces, there is also a 52,000 square foot exhibition hall at the convention centre venue, and all these spaces can be transformed into anything the client needs. It’s been the venue for car shows, basketball games, graduations, and even funerals.
“We don’t advertise it, but we do funerals. Things have changed and people don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. It could be that family members have friends who are from different denominations. For everybody to feel comfortable, you bring them into a space that is not linked to any one denomination,” says Smith-Robb.
“We also have the [baby] gender reveals here. As long as it’s in keeping with the laws of the land, we do it,” she adds.
With business steadily inching its way back to pre-COVID levels, she’s now busy booking clients for two years down the line.
“I’m sending out proposals for conferences for 2023 for ’24 for ’25. As long as COVID slows down, as long as it gets behind us, then persons will feel more comfortable to go out and sit in an in-person meeting. Because, let’s face it, the hybrid works, but nothing beats an in-person interaction,” she says.
How to book:
Social media: @mobaycentre
Phone: (876) 622-9337