64 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5, Jamaica
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Fellow tourism partners, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen…good morning.
· I am pleased to be here today for the soft launch of this special Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour and the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival.
· This initiative is quite timely as research conducted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) points to the fact that tourists spend at least one-third of their travel dollar on food. Most importantly, they are on the lookout for new experiences in dining.
· The Jamaican culinary experience, like Blue Mountain Coffee, is very unique with its melting pot of African, Caribbean and European cultures. It was therefore inevitable that in crafting the five pillars of growth to give us five million visitors in five years, that gastronomy should be included.
· Following an extensive survey across geographic regions that cater to tourism, the UNWTO has concluded that for many of the world’s billions of tourists, returning to familiar destinations to enjoy tried and tested recipes, or travelling further in search of new and special cuisine, gastronomy has become a central part of the tourism experience.
· Increasing attention is being paid to what it calls food tourism as tourists are attracted to local produce and food festivals that allow for a different mouth-watering experience.
· This experience is to be found in all corners of the country, from local bars and the man or woman selling roast yam and salt fish, the rustic restaurant offering tasty local dishes to the gourmet restaurant serving the best that the country offers to discriminating diners in an atmosphere of elegance.
· Food is a central part of the tourism experience and is one of the drawing cards for many visitors to our island.
· The World Food and Travel Association says globally, gastronomy tourism has grown into a US$150 billion industry, and we know that our outstanding food experiences are among the top three reasons why persons visit our island.
· 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 and speaks to our policy of seeking to develop Jamaica into a gastronomy destination.
· The Tourism Linkages Network with a team of knowledgeable persons committed to country and the growth of tourism, has been doing a fantastic job behind the scenes developing 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.
· Today’s ground-breaking event is one such activity and I must single out Chairman of the Gastronomy Network, Nicola Madden-Greig and her team for conceptualizing this initiative.
· The Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour and Coffee Festival promises to be an event with an aromatic difference. It offers another opportunity for deepening the linkages between tourism and the agro-processing industry while strengthening the hand of our sales teams in the markets of the world and opening up opportunities for our people to benefit in a direct way from their participation in the tourism experience.
· On this culinary tour into the famous Blue and John Crow Mountains, patrons will be treated to a breath-taking vista of flora and fauna, delightful Jamaican cuisine and steaming cups of one of the world’s best brands of coffee.
· There are also tours offering insights into the origination, cultivation and processing of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. The strategy involves working with tour operators to develop enticing food tours across the length and breadth of the island. We’re giving a taste of that with today’s soft launch l, which will offer visitors diverse and immersive experiences ‘from farm to cup,’
· The Gastronomy Network has come up with various tour options, each of which captures these delightful experiences, and more.
· I really don’t want to single out any of the tours but who would not want to make a stop at a rustic café that is known for serving the best cup of coffee in the world? Or, dine in Irish Town at a restaurant that offers a wide range of traditional Jamaican meals cooked with a lot of love and the right kick of flavour?
· Soon 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.
· Given the vast potential, the Gastronomy Network is also engaged in mapping 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 culinary experiences.
· There will be collaboration with tourism partners to boost the number of quality food festivals and constructively integrate food experiences with existing flagship events.
· These efforts will help to position Jamaica as a first-class tourist and gastronomy destination, and will give the visitors good reason to spend more while they are here.
· Our goal of welcoming 5 million visitors annually is on target and as good as our current attractions are, we cannot be complacent; we have to be constantly in an innovative mode and focus on growing our earnings per visitor and strive to retain more of those earnings in Jamaica.
· To do this we are taking decisive steps to give the visitors more things to do when they come to our island – tap into their passion points – and we can only do this by diversifying our product offerings.
· 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 way. Again, I commend them for organizing this wonderful programme and I look forward to even greater things in the weeks and months to come.