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· Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Mrs. Jennifer Griffith and other Ministry officials
· Chairman and Executive Directors of our Tourism Agencies
· President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Mr. Omar Robinson
· JHTA Executive and other Members
· Members of the Media
· Ladies and Gentlemen
· It is said there is great strength in partnerships and nowhere is this more evident than in our tourism sector. We are a composite product of many different services – attractions, accommodation, restaurants, transport and entertainment – that deliver the total visitor experience. What’s more, we are all critical to tourism’s success.
· It is therefore my distinct pleasure to be here this morning and to address the Annual General Meeting of one of our most valued tourism partners, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA).
· Your organization continues to be a source of tremendous support to my Ministry and our agencies, and I want to thank your President, Omar Robinson and the members of the executive of the JHTA for their unwavering commitment to helping us maintain Jamaica’s position as a world class destination.
· It is a true testament of public-private sector partnership that is so critical to moving the sector forward.
STATE OF THE SECTOR
· Ladies and gentlemen, I can say without any hesitation that the future of our sector looks very bright.
· It was only this past Thursday that Jamaica marked a historical milestone when we welcomed the millionth stop-over visitor to the island for the year to date. This is phenomenal because it is the first time ever that we have recorded a million stop-over arrivals before the middle of the year.
· Earlier, we had projected that the millionth visitor would arrive on or about the end of June. However, I am pleased to note that all projections were being exceeded and at the end of May there were 973,000 stop-over visitors to the island, rising sharply to 1,026,000 to date.
· Cruise numbers continue to climb consistently. The latest figures from January to May 2017 indicate that we welcomed 885,231 visitors from cruise shipping; a 5.4 per cent increase over the same period last year.
· In addition to this landmark achievement, for the first time in history the tourism sector earned in excess of US$1.2 billion for the period January to May of this year.
· When you consider that the tourism sector directly employs over 106,000 Jamaicans, while generating indirect jobs for another 250,000 Jamaicans (or one in every four Jamaicans) in linked sectors such as agriculture, the creative and cultural industries, manufacturing, transportation, finance and insurance, electricity, water, construction and other services, then you realize the relevance of the sector to national development.
· So what does this tell us? It says loud and clear that tourism does have the potential to drive economic growth and to bring foreign exchange into the country and create stability. Beyond any doubt, the sector is a catalyst for change.
· I can confidently say that if arrival figures continue to grow at this rate Jamaica will be firmly on track to achieve or even surpass our target of five million visitors by 2021. It is a goal that is clearly in sight.
· Of course, we must increase airlift and add new routes if we intend to boost our visitor arrivals. To this end, we are pursuing initiatives to increase airlift to Jamaica out of traditional as well as emerging markets, including Asia (China, South Korea), Latin America, Eastern Europe and also the Caribbean.
· In addition, we will also continue to aggressively pursue a multi-destination marketing arrangement with Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
· Our efforts to increase airlift have met with noteworthy success. In early June, we welcomed the inauguration of Southwest Airlines newest service, non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Montego Bay Airport. This brings to five the number of US gateways being operated by Southwest to Jamaica since commencing international flights here in 2014.
· Southwest moves from more gateways and secondary airports than any other airline in the US and so this new route augurs well for connectivity to Jamaica.
· Also, I am pleased to announce weekly charter flights from Spain and Portugal to Jamaica beginning this month.
· The Portugal flights began on June 9 and go through to September 29 out of the capital city Lisbon.
· Meanwhile, the Spain flights will be operated by Evelop non-stop out of Madrid into Montego Bay from June 25 to October 28.
· In addition, one of Europe’s leading airlines, Eurowings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, will begin operating twice weekly scheduled service between Germany’s largest populated metropolitan region, Bonn/Cologne, and Montego Bay as of July 3 this year.
· We aim to more than double to 50,000 the number of German tourist arrivals into the island by 2020. The Tourism Ministry and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) will be working closely with tour operator partners like TUI, Neckermann, etc., to achieve this target.
· As a Government we are doing our part to ensure that the infrastructure, policies and legislation required to facilitate growth in the tourism sector are implemented.
· To this end, we are restructuring the Ministry and its Agencies to make them more responsive to the needs of the tourism sector and to provide better services overall.
· We are in the process of repositioning Jamaica Vacations Ltd. (JAMVAC) to more efficiently drive air connectivity and bring more routes to the Jamaican tourism sector.
· In addition, Cruise Tourism will be added to JAMVAC’s portfolio. This will primarily involve collaboration with the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) to negotiate with cruise lines to secure as many ships as desired to call at ports in Jamaica; to develop a cruise conversion programme that will be facilitated at all the cruise ports; and to work with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and other tourism partners to ensure consistent delivery of a positive shore side experience to visitors.
· This is consistent with the need for the Jamaica Tourist Board to focus primarily on marketing the destination for both stopover and cruise tourism.
· In terms of advertising and marketing, the Director will be making a full presentation later. However, I just want to say the JTB has done a great job promoting the island over the years, but I have charged the Director and the Board to work assiduously to identify new and emerging markets, cultivate new relationships with travel partners and disseminate timely and useful marketing information to its offices and travel partners across the world.
· Indeed, the JTB has been charged to embrace the dynamic new disruptive marketing strategies and technologies - from Airbnb to Social Media – to get the messaging out on Jamaica. The JTB must embrace the fast moving trends in the market, where influencers have become a powerful force in communicating the authenticity of experiences --- something today’s traveler is definitely looking for.
· I know that many of you continue to be concerned about the arrangement to transfer the funds under the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) into the Consolidated Fund – the Government's main account.
· I have noted the very strong concerns from stakeholders, both here and overseas, about the integrity of the Fund going forward and I want to once again give you every assurance that money from the Fund will only be used for tourism related expenditure, as approved by the TEF Board.
· In addition, as I have said before, administrative and accounting arrangements will be put in place to enable the Ministry and other tourism interests to continue to have access to project funding and financing for other critical initiatives within the sector as outlined in the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development.
· A mechanism will be put in place to enable TEF to continue to monitor all projects which the agency funds even after TEF funds are placed in the broader Consolidated Fund.
· This new arrangement will ensure full transparency and accountability thereby enabling an even more effective measurement and management of the outcomes.
· In addition, the TEF Act has been amended to allow for the projects, programmes and operating expenses of the Agency to be expedited.
· My Ministry and its agencies are working diligently to provide a product and a service that both meets and exceed the expectations of our visitors as well as our important tourism partners.
· Of course, crucial to the effective development of our tourism product is destination assurance, which ensures our credibility in the marketplace. It is delivering on our promise.
· To that end, earlier this month we launched the Destination Assurance Councils for six resort areas – Negril; Montego Bay; Falmouth; St. Ann and St. Mary; Portland and St. Thomas; and Kingston and the South Coast – that have been tasked with ensuring that the quality, standards and integrity of Jamaica’s tourism product are maintained.
· We are taking seriously the need to enhance the country's overall visitor experience so that we can guarantee a safe, secure and seamless vacation.
· So how do we further develop the sector into the engine of growth for our economy? We are going to have to facilitate and encourage the diversification of our product offerings as we target new markets.
· In addition, we must put in place initiatives to widen the range of people benefitting from the industry in terms of ownership and employment. In this way, we are creating a more inclusive industry better able to help with poverty alleviation and realizing sustainable growth.
· And importantly, at the same time, we are strengthening the linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy. In this way we will increase the economic impact of tourism, earn more from sector and keep the tourism dollars here.
· In this regard, the Ministry’s Tourism Linkages Network is doing a magnificent job. I am proud of the excellent work being done by our five networks – Gastronomy, Sports and Entertainment, Health and Wellness, Knowledge and Shopping – as we work to better integrate tourism with the wider society and thereby better spread the benefits to all Jamaicans.
· Already we have, to name a few initiatives:
o Established Jamaica’s first Gastronomy Centre at Devon House
o Launched the Blue Mountain Culinary Tour
o Coordinated one of Jamaica’s biggest and best carnivals ever
o Launched the Jamaica Suppliers Directory – an online business directory that allows purchasing managers in the tourism and hospitality sector to search and locate manufactures/producers of their choice, based on their needs.
· The Linkages Network’s next major project is the Technology In Tourism Conference, which will take place at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Thursday, July 13. This event will serve as a think tank and forum to discuss and demonstrate some of the latest trends globally being offered in the hospitality industry around technology.
· Tourism partners will not only have the opportunity to showcase their products and services but also provide the thought leadership to transform Jamaica into the ultimate “Smart” destination.
PENSION FOR TOURISM WORKERS
· At the same time, we cannot forget our hardworking employees in the tourism industry. I am happy to announce that the draft Tourism Workers Pension Bill is being reviewed by the Attorney General and will be presented to Cabinet before the session is over. I am pleased with discussions with stakeholders and consultations continue.
· This Bill will facilitate the creation of the much needed pension scheme to benefit all tourism workers, including Red Cap Porters, craft vendors, ground transportation operators and hotel workers.
· In addition, the requisite steps are being taken to amend the TEF Act to allow for the disbursement of $1 billion to facilitate the seeding of the pension scheme. The pension fund will attract the same kind of fiscal arrangement as other established pension funds and contributions will be tax free.
· Let me put on record that a true indication of the high regard for Jamaica in international tourism circles is our selection to host the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, which will be held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from November 27 – 29, 2017.
· This is a historic event as this will be the first time that the UNWTO and its affiliate members will be staging a world conference on tourism in the Caribbean or for that matter the entire Western Hemisphere.
· The conference is attracting many leaders from government, multilateral organizations, international financial agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, cruise lines, other tourism entities and, of course, local businesses including small and medium tourism enterprises.
· To date, 132 persons have registered from 48 countries across the world. We are expecting in the region of 700 delegates.
· Given the region’s dependency on tourism, it was important that such a conference provide solutions on how the Caribbean can better leverage this industry. Tourism is the single largest generator of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean and the sector receiving the most foreign direct investment (FDI). In addition, the region has a higher proportion of total employment and percentage of GDP derived from tourism than any other region in the world.
· I am therefore pleased to tell you that the conference has received the endorsement of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association (CHTA).
· A major outcome of the conference will be the creation of a Montego Bay Declaration, which will be used as a road map to strengthen public-private-partnerships and enhance donor funding and investor engagement. This will create the framework for more responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
· So, as you can see, there are exciting times ahead as we partner in driving and sustaining this dynamic and productive sector. Arrivals are up, linkages are being strengthened and there has been a spike in interest in hotel investments that will see us realizing our target of 15,000 new rooms by 2021.
· In addition, we are supporting Small and Medium Sized Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) and building our human capital (the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation and the Craft Development Institute).
· Ladies and gentlemen, our tourism sector has significant potential, but it will only thrive if we work as partners in building it.
· As a Ministry we will place added emphasis on investment, partnerships, and empowering our people to help foster tourism’s growth. In this way we will build a sustainable industry that makes a positive impact on the lives of every Jamaican and all of our tourism partners.
· We look forward the JHTA’s full support as we continue this journey.