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Remarks by the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment at the Launch of Rebel Salute 2013

• Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Andrew Holness
• The Hon. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture
• The Hon. Natalie Neita-Headley, Minister without Portfolio, with responsibility for Sport
• Tony Rebel, and his hardworking production team
• Members of the media
• Distinguished guests…good evening

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to have been invited to address this special gathering as we officially launch the 2013 staging of Rebel Salute, which is by far one of the most highly anticipated reggae shows locally.

Rebel Salute 2013 will be a groundbreaking event for more reasons than one. It will not only have a new two day format, but this year we will celebrate the 20th staging of Rebel Salute, and all this will take place at its new home at the Richmond Estate, in Priory St. Ann.

I am particularly pleased at the fact that this new venue will not only facilitate a second day of festivities, but will also bring this world class reggae show closer to the heart of our tourism sector,…only a few minutes away from the resort town of Ocho Rios and less than an hour’s drive from the tourism mecca of Montego Bay. 

Over the past 20 years Rebel Salute has become a much anticipated calendar event for locals and overseas travelers alike.  The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment and its agencies, prime among them the Jamaica Tourist Board, which is a major sponsor of this event, are very pleased to be associated with Rebel Salute. The key objectives of this family oriented event are in-keeping with many of our goals, such as showcasing authentic Jamaican culture through music, art, fashion and food, as well as promoting community based tourism and encouraging social and environmental responsibility.

While it is a major show on our local calendar I am confident that Rebel Salute 2013 will be a major drawing card for visitors eager to experience our distinctive culture and iconic music. The fact of the matter is that there are some things that are linked to our culture that make Jamaica a unique destination, like our delectable cuisine and our hospitable people. In this same way when the world thinks of Jamaica, they think of our reggae music. 

The reality is, Jamaica has etched itself an indelible place in the history of popular music, through the gift of Reggae which we have given to the world, something no other nation our size has done within the last 100 years.

The natural sounds and rhythms of Jamaica are found everywhere you turn. Our music is an innate part of the island, the people; the way of life - it is a part of the Jamaican experience. This event is known for showcasing conscious music and I would like to congratulate Tony Rebel and his team for maintaining a very high standard over the decades. This is one of the primary reasons why events like Rebel Salute continue to attract visitors, world class acts and the sponsorship support of Jamaica’s key corporate entities.

Business generates business and globally tourism remains one of the key drivers of economic growth and employment. Event tourism is a very important segment of the market that we need to tap into as we seek to diversify our tourism product offerings. In order to grow event tourism locally we need to develop an appealing calendar of events to attract tourists and spike visitor arrivals and the accompanying economic activities, on and off season.   

This year’s staging is projected to stimulate local economic activity during the two day period, which will benefit hundreds of individuals at the community level. With a total of just over 7,450 rooms within the Ocho Rios Resort Region, the new two day format will provide patrons with the option of staying overnight, thus providing well needed business for hotels and other properties. 

Within and around the environs of St. Ann visitors and locals alike will also be spending on accommodation, food, souvenirs, transportation and various other services. This typifies the significant multiplier effect that can be achieved when the link between tourism and entertainment is fully leveraged.

Ladies and gentlemen, over the years Rebel Salute has earned the distinction of being a staple on the music events calendar in Jamaica and the Caribbean, and the 2013 staging will be no different. This show is being held against the background of a continued resurgence of Jamaica’s tourism sector despite harsh global economic conditions.

Last year we welcomed over 1.9 million stopover visitors to our shores. This year so far, despite the many challenges throughout the year, including the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the United States, and the US elections, Jamaica’s visitor arrivals continue to increase. Final figures indicate that between January and November, Jamaica welcomed approximately 1.794 million stopover visitors; an increase of 2.3 percent over the same period last year; while cruise arrivals rose by 26.6 percent between January and October 2012.

But more importantly, the final figures for January to November show that we are up 3% in terms of earnings over this period. Jamaica earned approximately 1.84 billion US dollars, compared to the 1.74 billion we earned for the same period last year.

We’ve made significant strides in diversifying our markets by securing new airlift for Jamaica as we target new markets. As you all know tomorrow we will welcome the first flight from the Czech Republic and next week Tuesday we will truly be able to say ‘the Russians are coming’ when non-stop flight service from Moscow, Russia, to Montego Bay begins.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to say that our tourism sector is poised for further growth despite the many challenges, and events like Rebel Salute will contribute to this process by fuelling the development of our event tourism offering.

I want to wish the organizers all the best and let me congratulate the hardworking production team, led by my good friend Tony Rebel, for once again bringing together some of the best acts for what promises to be one of, if not the best staging of Rebel Salute yet.

Thank you.