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The Ministry of Tourism’s Five- Year Strategic Vision for Tourism Development in Jamaica

As Minister of Tourism, I am pleased to report that destination Jamaica is poised for great things in the coming years. Over the next five years, my mission will be to ensure that the country’s tourism product achieves unprecedented levels of diversification and expansion which will help to reinforce the sector’s coveted position as the most important contributor to economic growth, job creation and community development in Jamaica. Currently the country is already firmly on track to achieving a record year in tourism, having already recorded earnings of US$2.06 billion from the January to October period which represents an increase of 5.7 per cent over the amount earned for the same period last year. The island also registered an increase of 5.1 per cent in visitor arrivals over the same period last year with an estimated 3,100,235 visitors. I am now more confident than ever before, that, beginning in 2017, our tourism sector can achieve a minimum of 5 per cent per annum for the next five years, increasing arrival numbers by 100,000 per year, US$255 million incremental, moving earnings to US$3.5 billion.

As Minister of Tourism I will continue to proclaim that the time has come for Jamaica to recognize the indispensability of the tourism sector to the country’s sustainable development. Indeed tourism has proven to be our most resilient sector expanding by 36% over the last 10 years compared with total economy growth of 6%, accounting for over 8.4 % of GDP and employing over 106,000 directly or 1 in every 4 Jamaicans.  The induced benefits of tourism to the economy stretches to other linked sectors such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, transportation, creative and cultural industries and utilities  and is estimated at 18% of GDP. In real terms, tourism is the leading contributor to GDP, job creation and foreign revenue in the Jamaican economy.

Recent developments in the international realm have indicated that the world now sees destination Jamaica as a major player in global tourism. Just recently, I was so fortunate to have been honoured, at the 2016 World Travel Awards, as The World’s Leading Personality for Outstanding Services to Travel. Destination Jamaica  also copped the prestigious awards of World’s Leading Cruise Destination and  World’s Leading Wedding Destination while several Jamaican resorts received awards including:  the World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company (Sandals Resorts International), World’s Leading All-Inclusive Family Resort Brand (Beaches Resorts), World’s Leading Caribbean Attraction Company (Island Routes Caribbean Adventures), World’s Leading Luxury Hotel Villa (Ian Fleming Villa at Golden Eye), World’s Leading New Island Resort (Meliá Braco Village), and World’s Leading Villa Resort (Round Hill Hotel & Villas).

I do not take these accolades for granted. For my own part, I will be embarking on a series of initiatives over the next five years to consolidate the gains we have already made and to realize greater economic opportunities from tourism in fulfilment of the mission to significantly expand the overall impact of tourism on Jamaica’s economic development. My strategic Business Plan (2016-2019) targets four broad objectives which I have listed below:

·         Strengthening  linkages with other sectors of the economy particularly the agricultural and manufacturing sectors

·         Strengthening the benefits derived from the industry by local residents and communities

·         Promoting broader participation by all Jamaicans; and

·         Ensuring  the safety, security and sustainability of the natural and built environments

In pursuit of these broad objectives, I have already unveiled my five pillars for double-digit tourism growth.  These are:

  1. Identifying and aggressively  targeting new markets

        To this end I have already initiated discussions with JetBlue to introduce new locations to  their Jamaican itinerary , and I also plan to  aggressively target promising markets such as Russia, China, Brazil, Colombia, Chile , Panama and also the Caribbean.

  1. Offering new products

Diversification of the country’s tourism product is essential to engendering a globally-competitive tourism industry that is able to deepen economic integration with the local economy while also significantly expanding the country’s share of the global tourism market.  To ensure that Jamaica’s tourism sector becomes better integrated with other sectors (such as agriculture and mining), we have introduced the Tourism Linkages Network which recently expanded its areas of focus to include: sports and entertainment, shopping, knowledge, health and wellness, and gastronomy. We recognize that destination Jamaica has so much more to offer than just rooms, sand and sea and international travellers have become increasingly enthralled by nature, heritage and cultural experiences of the destinations they visit. We strongly believe culturally-rich Jamaica has significant built-in potential to capitalize on these growing areas of tourism interest.  The objective is to increase the consumption of local goods, create employment, and generate and retain more of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

  1. Increasing Investments

Destination Jamaica has traditionally enjoyed considerable success in attracting Foreign- Direct Investment and we intend to continue on this same trajectory.  I will be aggressively targeting a room stock of 50,000 in five years, from which revenue of US$5 billion is projected. We anticipate that between this year and the next over US $550 million will be invested in the country’s hotel industry spanning 10 projects.  The period of 2016-2017 will receive a total of nine hotels coming on-stream amounting to approximately US$$448.1 million in projected capital investment and representing a total of 2,205 new rooms. These investments include newly constructed hotels and hotels that are undergoing major restructuring, rebranding and expansion such as:

·         The former Wyndham Kingston Hotel acquired by Kevin Hendrickson - US$62.6 million and scheduled to open in April 2017

·         Royal Decameron Montego Bay scheduled to open in 2017

·         Royalton Negril, formerly Grand Lido Negril, scheduled to open in late 2016 - projected capital investment of US$150 million

·          Melia Braco Jamaica opened in January 2016 - projected capital investment of US$23 million

·          Grand Bahia Principe expansion completed in April 2016 - projected capital investment of US$120 million.

The projection for 2017 is for more than 1,000 new room to be added to the country’s room stock. These will come from Royalton Negril Resort and Spa, The Hideaway at Royalton, Azul Sensatori, Azul Beach and Spanish Court West.  Karisma Hotels and Resorts also recently confirmed that groundbreaking for its US$900-million mega hotel development project will commence in January 2017. Karisma plans to build 10 hotels over 10 years, with a total of 5,000 rooms. The Llandovery, St. Ann-based development will be the first such project under the Government’s ‘Shovel Ready’ programme, led by the Ministry of Tourism and is expected to generate 10,000 direct and 8,000 indirect jobs.

While foreign direct investment will be pursued to build large hotels, there will also be an increased focus on persuading Jamaicans to invest in the industry. Increased local investments can be achieved through increased provision of services, developing attractions, and transforming small hotels and private homes to meet the needs of special-needs travellers and other groups.

  1. Building New Partnerships

The Ministry of Tourism values our network of partners which include hoteliers, the business community, arts and craft vendors, farmers, service providers and community-based enterprises. We are committed to strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones to ensure a collaborative inclusive approach to tourism development in Jamaica.  The Jamaica Linkages Network continues to forge linkages through activities such as Christmas in July, Speed Networking Event, Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), and Agro-Tourism Farmers’ Market. At JAPEX, local suppliers not only showcase their products but also participate in meetings with buyers in the tourism sector while the primary objective of the Speed Networking Event is to strengthen linkages and increase business between local suppliers and players in the tourism sector, with past events targeting manufacturing, agriculture and development/construction sectors. The Tourism Linkages Network is supported by a Tourism Linkages Council, made up of public- and private-sector partners who oversee the coordination and implementation of effective and sustainable strategies, which strengthen and facilitate linkages.       

  1. Renewal of Human Capital       

Tourism remains one of the country’s most labour intensive sectors and we recognize that “quality” service is the most important hallmark of any globally-competitive tourism product.  If community-based enterprises and arts and crafts vendors, in particularly, are to maximize the benefits to be unlocked from our commitment to expanding community-based tourism in the coming years, we must support initiatives that target the provision of training and technical assistance  in  areas such as marketing, business administration,  product development , ICT use for artisans and community-based enterprises.

Our Craft Development Programme is committed to training local vendors in customer services, language, entrepreneurship and craft sales and helping to build capacity for craft producers in craft enhancement and business planning. In September of this year we launched our National Community Tourism Portal which we believe will be an  excellent marketing tool which will help local community-based tourism enterprises to keep pace with the competition by: building awareness of community tourism in Jamaica; providing comprehensive and engaging information on Jamaica’s community tourism product; providing an easy means for making community tourism bookings; and providing Community Based Tourism Enterprises (CBTEs) with affordable and cost effective e-marketing service.

The portal forms part of the government’s US$15 million Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) project, which is being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), with funding from the World Bank. I also intend to follow through on my promise to develop an Institute of Craft which will enable the country to have goods made in Jamaica, sold by Jamaicans, and to carry the value of Jamaica to the four corners of the world.

To ensure that growth in cruise tourism benefits the our artisans and craft merchandisers we will be constructing three artisan villages at major ports   : one in Ocho Rios, St Ann, transforming the old Reynolds Pier; another in the Freeport, next to the Montego Bay Cruise Pier and replacing the existing craft market in the heart of the city; and the third in Falmouth, Trelawny, by the old wharf building.

In closing, I reiterate my commitment to transforming the country’s tourism product into an enabler of endogenous socio-economic  development  and it is my fervent hope that my strategic vision and plan of action for tourism enhancement and renewal will  position the sector to facilitate sustainable development by building and marketing  Brand Jamaica, fostering community development, supporting the growth of SMEs, creating jobs for thousands of Jamaicans, generating  much-needed tax revenues for government and providing increased spillover effects for other segments of the Jamaican economy.  

Speech Date: 
Wednesday, March 14, 2018