TALKING POINTS BY MINISTER OF TOURISM, HON. EDMUND BARTLETT AT THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THE JAMAICA OBSERVER TABLE TALK FOOD AWARDS THURSDAY, MARCH 16, 2017
Submitted by DwayneWilson on Wed, 05/02/2018 - 18:07
Mr. Danville Walker, Managing Director, Jamaica Observer
Sponsors, Judges and Friends
Members of the media
Jamaica has an amazingly rich and diverse culinary culture that is more than worthy of recognition. I am therefore pleased to have been invited to participate in the launch of the 19th staging of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards.
This highly anticipated annual event is well regarded by those in the food industry as the Caribbean’s premier culinary experience – the Region’s ‘Food Oscars’, so to speak.
Prestigious awards like these, which celebrate and reward outstanding food creation, service and excellence,are important because they encourage best practices and high standards within the industry.
By honouring our culinary stars – our chefs, our restaurateurs and the local producers who provide their delicious ingredients – you are helping to take gastronomy to new heights.
I commend the Jamaica Observer team, ably lead by conceptualizer Novia McDonald Whyte, for their great work in organizing this exceptional foodie event year after year.
I would expect nothing less from an organization headed by quintessential businessman Gordon “Butch Stewart’ and his son Adam, whose brilliant leadership has created a chain of resorts recognized for excellence around the world.
I am pleased that the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards have become a regional affair, with this celebration of culinary excellence also being staged in our sister islands of Cayman and Trinidad & Tobago. This integrated regional food experience augurs well for local and Caribbean gastronomy tourism.
I am always impressed to see the hundreds of foodies and dignitaries that converge on Devon House each year to honour awardees, experience the fantastic range of food and beverages on offer and meet the chefs, restaurateurs and food producers responsible for these culinary delights. You can feel the passion and energy. It is absolutely fantastic!
Food is central part of the tourism experience and is one of the drawing cards for many visitors to our island.
More and more people are travelling the world to experience the ‘food culture’ of other destinations, whether it is local restaurants and bars, farms and markets or vineyards and breweries.
Globally, gastronomy tourism has grown into a US$150 billion industry, according to data from the World Food and Travel Association.
Over a third of tourist expenditure is allocated to food. Here, at home, our outstanding food experiences are among the top three reasons why persons visit our island.
Jamaica is fortunate to be blessed with gastronomic offerings born out of the rich diversity of our heritage. This fusion of cultures has created a melting pot of gastronomic wonders that make us ideally positioned to take advantage of the growing phenomenon of culinary travel.
Events like the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards contribute significantly to our efforts to develop Jamaica into a gastronomy centre of excellence.
Ladies and gentlemen, gastronomy tourism provides an opportunity for us to add value to the island’s tourism sector by diversifying the product while promoting local economic development.
This is why my Ministry has put in place the framework to develop our gastronomy offering. I have appointed a Gastronomy Network, which falls under the aegis of our Tourism Linkages Network, to develop initiatives to strengthen Jamaica’s competitiveness in gastronomy tourism as we diversify our product to generate higher growth rates in both visitor arrivals and earnings.
Under the very capable leadership of Nicola Madden-Greig I am already seeing positive signs that the Network will achieve its goals.
Among the strategies being applied are:
Working with tour operators to develop enticing food tours across the length and breadth of the island.
Later this month we will launch the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour and Coffee Festival, which will offer visitors diverse and immersive experiences ‘from farm to cup,’ in the Blue Mountain regionalong a culinary trail that will showcase eateries, various attractions and coffee estates in the Blue Mountain region.
We will also be launching Devon House as a Gastronomy Centre, bringing visitors to the historic site to experience the different culinary offerings through various package tours.
Creating a gastronomy mapping platform with a comprehensive list of restaurants, food festivals, food tours and other culinary information, which will allow visitors to easily locate and get information on the island’s best food experiences.
Collaborating with tourism partners to boost the number of quality food festivals.
Integrate food experiences with existing flagship events.
I believe these efforts will help to position Jamaica as a first-class tourist and gastronomic destination, and will give the visitors good reason to spend more while they are here.
Eventually, it is my hope to go a step further as we strengthen the framework for multi-destination tourism within the Caribbean. I want us to leverage this strong link between destinations using gastronomy as a means for guiding tourists around the Region so they can enjoy a coffee festival in Jamaica, a farm-to-table dining experience in the Dominican Republic and a farmers’ market in Cuba. The multi-cultural and diverse foods of the Caribbean provide endless possibilities.
We must grasp opportunities for growth that secures higher yields per visitor, while building competitive industries and creating rewarding careers for Jamaicans.
It is the only way we are going to achieve our growth targets for the sector, which you have probably heard me mention but they bear repeating:
Secure 5 million visitors by 2021
US$ 5 billion in tourism earnings
Increase the total direct jobs to 125,000
15,000 new rooms.
Our new culinary culture is going to help us to achieve these goals and our Gastronomy Network is mandated to guide and grow this sub-sector in a steady and sustainable manner.
Again, I commend the Jamaica Observer for organizing this annual event to recognise and honour the culinary talents, both in Jamaica and the region. I look forward to May 25 for another successful Table Talk Food Awards. Let us continue to work together to transform Jamaica into a world-class culinary destination.