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Expansion of Expo Jamaica pays offTuesday, April 19, 2016 > 09:55:05
WHEN Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) took the decision to expand this year’s staging of Expo Jamaica, Berletta Henlon Forrester, market development manager at the agency with responsibility for the buyer recruitment programme at the expo, said it was a leap of faith.
Today that leap of faith paid off as the feedback from buyers and the public shows that the expo surpassed its expectations.
Henlon Forrester said: “Expo Jamaica is held every two years. As an organising committee — JMA (Jamaica Manufacturers Association), JEA (Jamaica Exporters Association) and JAMPRO looked at what worked, and recommendations were on the table from previous expos. One of the first things we made a decision on was expanding the show, because every year we are oversubscribed when it comes to boothes, [at the] last minute people are begging and pleading for a space. We took the decision early to expand to the National Indoor Sports Centre. That was kind of a leap of faith — you go out there, take on additional space and expenses, hoping you will full it. We reached out to the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association and the Jamaica Tourist Board to engage them in bringing ‘experience Jamaica’ to the show. Plus, we also decided to look at new features as it’s an ever-evolving show, and at every staging we want to bring something fresh because we have repeat buyers.”
Moreover, Henlon Forrester said this year’s expo attracted more than 500 buyers from 27 countries with more than 450 exhibitors present.
Over the course of the expo, she said it was expected that 300 business meetings would be facilitated and 100 trade leads generated. She also stated that a target was set for 30 contracts to be signed, emerging from the 100 leads.
Subsequently, approximately 70 per cent of JAMPRO’s staff were rostered to work the floors of the National Arena and the National Indoor Sports Centre to ensure that buyers and exhibitors got together to transact business.
“One of our main aims is to boost the element of buyers and exhibitors doing business. So we had more team members on the floor facilitating those meetings [and], recording the outcomes because we need to make the follow-up later on to ensure they do sign contracts for linkages,” she said.
But, Henlon Forrester was unable to give a definite figures yesterday as she said the organisations would have to meet this week and do follow-ups before tabulating such data.
She added: “This element is very important to JAMPRO’s mandate because our role is to facilitate an increased export. We’ve reached out to buyers in these various countries, and I’m happy to say it’s a real pleasure to have 27 countries represented at Expo Jamaica this year. I must emphasise that we had local buyers and that’s important. So while we are focusing heavily on export, we are also very much interested in supporting import substitution. We want to encourage our distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and hotels to buy locally… so, we save some valuable foreign exchange for the company.”
Additionally, she said although the buyer days ended Friday evening, JAMPRO was still facilitating buyers who could not make it to the scheduled days.
“This is an indication of the interest and efforts our buyers are making. Our buyers have come back to the other sessions as well and they’re taking it all in, and they continue to have meetings. Some people have also requested meetings with suppliers who are not part of the expo, and we are facilitating that at our offices,” she said.
Regional buyers in attendance said they were impressed with this year’s expo, describing it as a huge improvement compared to previous years.
“I have seen a great improvement from your last expo to now. With reference to the products and the labelling and everything [they were] really good; world-class products,” Marilyn Ramkissoon, group chief executive officer of CLA Publishers in Trinidad told the
Sean Sander from Canada also said it was much better than the last expo and said he was pleased that there were more exhibitors.
“There are more booths. The last time half the spaces were empty,” he said.
Leslie Salmon from Food Brokerage Services Limited in Antigua said it was his third expo and, based on previous linkages he has procured, he hopes to get some more from this year’s staging.