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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica; Thursday, March 30, 2017: The tourism sector and allied industries have been put on alert to prepare for 4.2 million visitors this year. The target represents a 5 percent increase on the 3.84 million tourists the country received in 2016.
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has pointed to the opportunities that the increased arrivals will mean for the various stakeholders, in particular income generation and the creation of more jobs.
Giving the opening address at the fourth Tourism Linkages Speed Networking Event held at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, on March 29, 2017 Minister Bartlett reiterated the need to retain more of the tourism dollar on island by increasing the use of products made in Jamaica.
Outlining what he referred to as the production or acquisition cost and consumption of the experience offered by the industry, Mr. Bartlett said, “our people who have been concerned that tourism is not contributing enough to the economy are not understanding this consumption/production relationship, and if they do understand, they are perhaps in denial because the moving parts are in evidence in tourism from start to finish.”
Noting the relationship between retaining and leakage of the dollar, Mr. Bartlett said it was true that tourism was a net earner of foreign exchange “because the production costs can be so high and the input which forms the consumption side can be so remote from the destination that you end up having to import the input on the consumption side.”
He said the Tourism Linkages Speed Networking was a vehicle to give producers entry into the industry bringing producers face to face with buyers as the start of a bigger programme.
Minister Bartlett disclosed that “later on this year we are going to bring the owners of hotels, the main procurement officers, the senior vice presidents that do the buying to come at a big trade fair that we want to have at the Montego Bay Convention Centre to ensure that we have not only an interface of both sides of the equation but that you the producers know in fact what the buyers want.”
Chairman of the Tourism Linkages Council, Adam Stewart said this year’s Speed Networking event had a total of 172 representatives from 98 supplier companies and 79 buyer representatives from 55 tourism entities. He said having so many persons attending from across the country was “sending a signal that tourism is alive and well” and of a willingness to “buy Jamaican first.”
He said all participants were there for the same goal of building Jamaica, keep foreign exchange in the country “and the more transactions take place the more successful this event will be not only in terms of how it is staged but to each of the participants.”
The Tourism Linkages Speed Networking event is a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism’s Tourism Linkages Network, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Jamaica Manufacturers Association, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and JAMPRO.
JHTA President, Omar Robinson said through this platform hoteliers were being exposed to the full breadth of offerings of local partners and were able to benefit from a rich exchange of ideas, contacts and product and service details.
“This goes to the core of one of the missions of the JHTA and the Tourism Linkages Council to have tourism through backwards and forward linkages be a vehicle for growth in our economy. Tourism will therefore serve as the tide that raises all ships,” he said.
JMA President, Metry Seaga said five years ago this coming together was unheard of as “the relationship between manufacturing, tourism and agriculture was very acrimonious and today, thanks to the leadership at all levels cross cutting administrations, we have come to a place where we are now family.”
He said it felt good to have all parties standing together, moving in one direction and now speaking with one voice “and we recognize that it is important for the country.”