Talking Points For Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett at the Official Opening of the Tourism Linkages Network's Christmas in July 2016 Trade Exhibition Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston Thursday July 28, 2016
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Colleague Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Karl Samuda
Colleague Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Fayval Williams
Members of the Diplomatic corps
Mrs. Jennifer Griffith, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and other Ministry officials
Other distinguished Government representatives
Chairman of the Tourism Linkages Council, Mr. Adam Stewart, and other council members
President of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association,Omar Robinson and other members of the JHTA
President of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, Metry Seaga, and other private sector leaders.
Members of the Media
Distinguished guests, ladies & gentlemen, good morning...
It is indeed a pleasure to be here this morning for the official opening of the Tourism Linkages Network’s Christmas in July 2016 trade exhibition – an innovative initiative to boost the purchase and use of more Jamaican made items as corporate gifts.
What a wonderful showcase of talent, skill and craftsmanship we see on display today. As I look around I see fascinating works of art and craft, spa products, paintings, furniture, footwear, clothing, confectionery, processed foods and wines, just to mention a few.
These items symbolize the authenticity and quality of the skills of ordinary Jamaican men and women who use their hands to express the richness of our local culture.
These unique Jamaican items would make thoughtful and original gifts that business clients and customers would love and I am sure the representatives from corporate Jamaica present here this morning will find numerous items to order.
Christmas in July 2015 was a huge success and resulted in contracts valued at J$1.1 million. Eighty local producers of authentic Jamaican gift and souvenir items participated in the exhibition showcasing various products.
Over 110 exhibitors are here today and I am sure that this year’s staging of Christmas in July will be equally successful, if not better.
I applaud the collaborative work of the Tourism Linkages Network and their partners; the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), and Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) and Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) – which has made this event possible. I am sure you would agree that together they make a formidable team.
At the same time, we must appreciate that the scores of buyers from the tourism sector, corporate Jamaica, government entities, embassies, missions and international organizations who are in attendance today have also helped to make Christmas in July a truly successful event.
Ladies and gentlemen the Tourism Linkages Network is doing an excellent job in developing and strengthening sustainable linkages between the tourism industry and other productive sectors of the economy — such as agriculture, manufacturing and the creative industries.
Stimulating the tourism sector’s demand for and consumption of local goods and services from other sectors is a key strategy for job creation and poverty reduction. The aim is to generate market opportunities for Jamaican made products and contribute to increased business for local enterprises.
At the same time, integrating local providers of goods and services in the tourism value chain allows us to generate and retain more of our foreign exchange earnings as we import less from overseas suppliers.
Of course, the support of the private sector is essential in order to ensure the success and longevity of these linkages initiatives. For this reason the Tourism Linkages Network is ably guided by a Tourism Linkages Council, which comprises public and private sector partners who are leaders, innovators and experienced business persons who oversee and direct the activities of the Network.
Under the guidance of the new Chairman Mr. Adam Stewart we are sure to see the creation of new opportunities and interventions that will improve the linkages between tourism and other sectors to grow our economy.
BUILDING CULTURAL CAPITAL
Initiatives like Christmas in July also help us to build our nation’s cultural capital. That is, our art and craft, our performing arts, our food, our fashion, our traditions, architectural and historical heritage and other elements of our culture.
This rich culture is the heartbeat of our nation and by extension our tourism product. It is what gives us our unique identity; it is what makes us distinctly Jamaican; and it is what attracts million of visitors to our island year after year.
The creativity of our population is one of our most powerful resources. Our artisans are imaginative and skilful and Jamaica has a natural abundance of beautiful raw materials with which to work. Here, I am talking about artisans in the widest possible sense. There is a tendency to associate artisans solely with art and craft. I am talking about persons skilled in a trade, whether their raw material of choice is food, beverage or textiles; like many of you here today.
Unfortunately, at present we are not utilizing our cultural capital to our full economic advantage and this is to our detriment. I say this because cultural capital can be a catalyst for socio-economic growth; it can provide a sustainable livelihood for local artisans; and satisfy visitors seeking authentic experiences. In addition, it gives us leverage in an increasingly competitive global tourism market.
The arts and culture in general are integral to enhancing the visitor’s experience, especially as we have an increasing number of visitors seeking an authentic experience. These visitors want to meet with the locals, understand their culture, experience their lifestyle and eat their food.
Nowhere is authenticity more important than in the arts and craft sector. The modern tourist does not want assembly line mass produced souvenir items made in a foreign land. Visitors are increasingly willing to spend their money on hand-crafted products that link them to the destination’s culture and history and remind them of their experience in that destination.
There are significant economic benefits to be gained from the arts and craft sector. Unfortunately, the mass importation of cheap ‘Jamaican’ souvenirs has severely impacted and diminished business opportunities for our local crafts people and is causing a leakage of much-needed foreign exchange.
We at the Ministry of Tourism have been working with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to address these issues.
Enhancing the authenticity of our craft items is one of our main priorities. We are taking strategic steps to provide a more enabling environment that supports the cultural and creative industries, which have such an important role play in the economic and social development of our communities and the nation overall.
To keep more tourist dollars in Jamaica, souvenirs should be locally made, with local material, by local people whenever possible. In economies throughout the world it has been proven time and time again that local, small-scale businesses are very advantageous as they contribute to the development of communities at the local level. This also helps to build uniqueness and authenticity into the product while keeping the benefits within the island itself.
Since 2011, TEF has committed some $482 million to the development of the local craft sector. This includes funding the rehabilitation of craft markets in our resort areas and providing craft enhancement and business planning training to artisans from all across the island.
Earlier this month I spoke at the Recognition and Awards Ceremony for some 180 artisans who successfully completed training under for the Organization of American States (OAS)/Tourism, Product Development Company (TPDCo) Craft Enhancement Project.
They were trained in developing craft items using various media such as fibre, textile, recycled material, bamboo, and papier mache. This programme was co-funded by TEF to the tune of $10.3 million.
The ultimate goal of the project was to ensure the creation of authentic, locally designed and developed, high quality craft products from Jamaica. It is hoped that in doing so, we can assist local craft producers to build sustainable livelihoods through the sale of their craft items, while offering visitor’s high quality products that reflect the Jamaican culture.
Ladies and gentlemen, in addition to this we are aggressively forging ahead with plans to construct artisan villages in resort areas across the island. Plans are in place for the completion of the first artisan village in Falmouth, which is set to be operational within this fiscal cycle and the designs for two others in Port Antonio and Negril are in progress. Artisan Villages for Ocho Rios and Montego Bay will follow.
The artisan villages will be one-stop-shop facilities where visitors can see the creation and merchandising of craft items, while enjoying authentic Jamaican entertainment and leisure activities.
They will also provide an avenue for Jamaican artists and craftsmen to expose and express their creativity by producing unique indigenous items, thus, limiting the volume of imported craft items that are being sold locally.
We are also in the process of developing an Institute of Craft, to further develop a competitive and productive workforce that can benefit from opportunities in the tourism sector.
We are going to be working with the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts as we build out the Institute of Craft, which I expect to be operational by 2018.
Not only are we training our artisans and improving the infrastructure to support the sector but we will also be providing financial support.
In a matter of weeks we will be signing a memorandum of understanding with the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of Jamaica, which will enable Small and Micro Tourism Enterprises (SMTE) to access up to $25 million dollars at five percent interest, over five years. TEF is driving this initiative to put a formal framework in place for well-needed banking support for operators in the sector.
OPPORTUNITIES IN TOURISM
What we are doing is bringing skill and capital together to boost growth in tourism and create a greater demand for locally produced goods and services.
Many of you here today may feel that the doors of the tourism industry are closed to you. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Over the last two years our efforts, through the tourism linkages initiative, to put hoteliers in direct contact with local providers of products and services have resulted in contracts valued at J$129.9 million.
I am proud to say that quite a few of our hotels are outfitted with furniture from local manufacturers, including Courtyard by Marriott in New Kingston, Half Moon in Montego Bay, and the recently opened Meliá Braco Village Resort in Trelawny.
In fact, Meliá Braco Village has shown strong support for local manufacturers with the purchase of furnishings, including beds, bedding, pillows, pool chairs and craft items, valued at some US$500,000.
In April 2015, the Morgans Group, a local mattress manufacturer, signed a $10 million contract with Half Moon. This was the second major contract awarded to Therapedic by Half Moon.
The findings from our recently commissioned Tourism Demand Study show that demand for goods and services in the tourism sector is mainly satisfied by local suppliers. This is good news. However, importation still constitutes a reasonable proportion of expenditure on some specific products. The annual leakage due to imports amounts to a massive J$65.4 billion in the manufacturing sector.
So you see there is a large void still to be filled and it can be filled by you, the local producers. I encourage you to capitalize on this opportunity and help to meet the massive demand created by the tourism sector.
The fact of the matter is that tourism is expanding the market for goods and services. We are creating consumption at the highest level in Jamaica as visitors demand three meals per day and the highest quality products and services.
However this means that you our local producers have to do your part by producing high quality, competitively priced goods that can satisfy the demands of the tourism sector.
In closing I want to thank everyone who has come out today to support the Christmas in July initiative and also our local producers. Your support goes beyond “Buying Jamaican”. It is helping to revitalize our micro, small and medium sized business sector and providing employment.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to officially declare the Christmas in July 2016 exhibition officially open.