IT started out with about 20 hotels in 2019 but this year at least 63 companies — including airlines, attractions and ground transportation providers — will gather for Travel Expo 2023 on April 29. It’s a hot-ticket item and within 48 hours of organisers GO! Jamaica Travel sending out invitations, it was almost fully booked.
“I sent out the invitations first to our travel partners and in a matter of two days all the booth space and table top space was taken. I actually have a wait list now. I’m trying to work in a few hotels but I have no idea how I’m going to be able to work them in,” the travel agency’s CEO Dave Chin Tung told LetsTravelCaribbean.com in the second week of April.
The venue is the ballroom of the Jamaica Pegasus hotel. Chin Tung plans to add a second day to the event next year and may change the style of the display booths to accommodate more participants.
“We’re trying every area in which to expand. I know that for next year we’re probably going to be having a few overseas countries or destinations participating; I’ve had quite a few inquiries already,” he said while keeping the names of prospective clients from beyond Jamaica’s borders close to his chest.
It’s no surprise that Travel Expo is in high demand. There is no cost to those invited to set up a display and there is no charge to attend. However, most importantly, over the years it has built a solid reputation as an effective way to bring industry players together to do business.
GO! Jamaica Travel has itself benefited from the expo.
“Every year we have seen major increases in terms of our revenue — major!” said Chin Tung.
He cited the numbers for 2022 when, by the end of June, they had surpassed all of the sales figures for 2019 — which was considered Jamaica’s best year ever for tourism.
“We see that if people have the opportunity to meet a lot of these hotels or airlines, they will plan their trip. I think a lot of people are really thankful in terms of the opportunity. Plus, at the expo we have lots of prizes to give out — all the airlines that are going to be there have prizes, free tickets; all the hotels that are going to be there have prizes of day pass or hotel stays. And it’s all free!” said Chin Tung.
Also among the much-anticipated agenda items at the expo are the awards. Because of COVID-19 there were no awards in 2020 and 2021 so there is a lot of buzz building ahead of this year’s event where winners will be announced.
“We have an overall top hotel, we have a hotel that is the best in entertainment, we have a hotel that we use frequently for a lot of our meetings and conferences, and there are two hotels that have tied for family hotels — and they will get an award,” said Chin Tung. “Quite a lot of times it is those hotels awarding a lot of the travel trade. We decided to turn things around and say, ‘Hey guys, we appreciate you and quite a lot of our clients have rated you as being tops.’ ”
GO! Jamaica Travel is itself no stranger to accolades. Its first major recognition was a sustainable tourism award from The University of the West Indies in 2012. Two years later World Travel Awards recognised the quality of the work the company was doing.
“We have won the World Travel Awards every year straight from 2014, and over the past two years we have won four World Travel Awards each year. That includes Jamaica’s leading travel agency, the Caribbean’s leading travel agency, the Caribbean’s leading tour operator, and the Caribbean’s leading destination management company,” said Chin Tung.
“It’s a major feat in that there’s no other company in the entire Caribbean that has won four awards in one year, except for Sandals. And then with Sandals, they have won for the individual hotels,” he said.
It is recognition for the work put in by Chin Tung and his efficient five-member team. Combined, his employees have about 130 years of experience in the travel industry. It’s this expertise that has made each staging of Travel Expo well worth attending. This year is expected to be no different.