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Monday,  July 15, 2024 6:27 AM 

On Location: "The crème de la crème": JTB honours agents at One Love Affair in Montego Bay

On Location: "The crème de la crème": JTB honours agents at One Love Affair in Montego Bay
From left: the JTB's Angella Bennett, regional director, Canada, and Racquel Queensborough, BDM with Canada's top agents in the Jamaica Travel Specialist program. (Pax Global Media)
Nancy Benetton-Sampath

Vice-President, Media / Executive Manager

The Jamaica Tourist Board’s (JTB) three-day One Love Affair concluded with an exciting gala Tuesday night (Dec. 5), honouring 50 top-performing agents who are part of the Jamaica Travel Specialist program

Fifteen Canadians were among the celebrated agents from the Caribbean, continental Europe, the U.S., and the UK.

The lively event took place at the Iberostar Grand, Rosehall in Montego Bay, Jamaica attracting more than 175 guests, key dignitaries as well as sponsors and partners of JTB, including host hotel Iberostar Grand, Club Mobay, Chukka Caribbean Adventures, Island Routes, Margaritaville, Sandals Resorts International and the Tourism Enhancement Fund.

Discussing the theme of this year’s ceremony, "Roots, Rock and Reggae," Angella Bennett, JTB’s regional director Canada, said it served as a tribute to Jamaica's rich musical culture and history.

The theme encompasses "all our music genres of Jamaica – Rocksteady, Ska, Reggae – honouring all the great music icons with this theme," she said.

Guests were also encouraged to include either red, green, gold, or black colours into their formal attire.

”The top crème de la crème” 

Dan Hamilton, district sales manager, Canada at the JTB took centre stage as the suave master of ceremonies for the evening. 

He kicked the night off by asking the audience: “Why are we here?” Who are these awardees? How are they chosen to be here?”

The Jamaica Travel Specialist program is not solely focused on collecting points, Hamilton explained. 

Travel advisors must undergo a “rigorous” education module and pass an exam with "flying colours" to become certified specialists, he said. 

Agents record their bookings on the Jamaica Travel Specialist portal, earning redeemable points, which may be used in the reward store or merchandise and services for themselves or their clients.

The JTB then tracks these points to identify top sellers. 

Hamilton emphasized that the recognized individuals at the One Love Affair are “not your run-of-the-mill travel advisors.”

Dan Hamilton, district sales manager, Canada - JTB (Pax Global Media)

“These are the top crème de la crème, who sold the most Jamaica and recorded their bookings," he said. "They're not here just because we like them (and we do), but they're here because they've earned their spots to be here."

Philip Rose, JTB’s deputy director of tourism (acting) for the Americas also welcomed the celebrated guests.

“You are most important, and you are our most trusted and most loved travel partners. As a direct result of your efforts, ([Jamaica]. this year, earned in excess of $37 million U.S. dollars,” shared Rose, who later noted that Canadian arrivals in Jamaica for 2023 are forecasted to outpace 2022 by more than 40 per cent.

Donovan White, JTB’s director of tourism, also expressed his gratitude. 

He said travel advisors provide Jamaica with critical insights that inform tourism decisions to better serve visitors. 

“You give us the temperature check and tell us what is happening among the travellers and which direction their sentiments are leaning," White said. "You are a direct connection to the heart, emotions, preferences, likes and dislikes of the clients we serve. That information, to us, is priceless." 

JTB’s #1 top-performer for Canada

Ottawa, ON-based Vanessa Martinez, a groups and weddings specialist at Unforgettable Escapes, took the top spot in the Jamaica Travel Specialist program out of 15 agents in Canada. 

Globally, Martinez ranked number eight, PAX also learned.

In an interview, Martinez shared that she has been involved with the JTB’s program since 2016.

(l to r): JTB's Peter Mullings, Émilie Giguère, Racquel Queensborough, Angella Bennett, Donovan White, and Philip Rose present Vanessa Martinez with the No. 1 top-performer award for Canada. (Pax Global Media)

"It's a very worthwhile program to sign up for. As far as product and information goes, and destination knowledge, you're not going to find more support anywhere than with the Jamaica Tourist Board,” Martinez shared.

And support was exactly what Martinez needed during the last few challenging years in the travel industry.

"During the pandemic when everybody disappeared, they were there. They stood by us," she said. "They made sure we knew they were there." 

Martinez said that as she shifted to different markets outside of Canada, especially when tourism was closed during COVID - the JTB was "still there to help me and make sure I was successful."

She praised the organization's open-door policy. "I work with all of them. I even have contacts in the U.S. that I can reach out to," Martinez said. 

"It gets you leads"

The Canadian travel professionals honoured by the JTB this year rank as follows: 

  1. Vanessa Martinez - Unforgettable Escapes
  2. Courtney Pilon - Champagne Weddings & Travel
  3. Jen Langlois - Trevello Travel Group
  4. Sharon Loppie – TravelBug Travel (formerly Time2Travel)
  5. Lois Barbour - Travel Time Agency
  6. Yvonne Campbell - Yvonne’s Travel and Tours
  7. Shelley Elkas –
  8. Sharon Boissonneault - House of Travel
  9. Micaela McFarquhar – Intimate Affairs & Escapes
  10. Robyn Arnold – Sell Off Vacations
  11. Kim Leduc – Voyages & Croisieres Aquamonde
  12. Amanda Beaver - Glow Travel
  13. Tanya Smith – Niche Travel Group
  14. Andrea Lindsay – Your Travel Genie
  15. Johanne Robinson - CWT Harvey's Travel

Amanda Beaver, president & founder - Glow Travel & Events (Pax Global Media)

Amanda Beaver, president and founder of Glow Travel & Events, has been part of the Jamaica Specialist Program for about five years. This year was her second time attending the One Love Affair.

“One of the benefits of being a top 50 agent is that it gets you leads," Beaver said. "Anything that comes through the JTB’s website - if somebody is looking to make a booking - the JTB will reach out to their top 50 specialists, first, to pass on those leads.”

Tanya Smith from Nova Scotia, representing Niche Travel Group, was attending the One Love Affair for the first time.

Tanya Smith, Niche Travel Group (Pax Global Media)

“I just started entering my bookings this year and we get to come here. Look at this," she told PAX. "This is an amazing award for doing bookings. You know, we're just doing our job." 

Kim Leduc of Voyages & Croisieres Aquamonde (Pax Global Media)

Kim Leduc of Voyages & Croisieres Aquamonde in Quebec told PAX: “I was new to Jamaica. I knew nothing about Jamaica, and now I'm here. I'm very proud."

For more information on the Jamaica Travel Specialist Program, go here.

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