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· Development has been no more than a catch-phrase for the past few decades; growth has been anaemic with measurement taking place at the macro-economic level. This type of approach causes us to miss the forest for the trees.
· We measure our success in development according to a country’s GDP – the amount of factories we erected, the number of visitor arrivals and their spend (in my terms), the advanced infrastructure such as high-rise buildings and highways.
· But what of the effects? What of the impact of these achievements on our environment and society?
· As I grow tourism with my 5 by 5 by 5 (5 million visitors, 5 billion dollars in tourism earnings, in 5 years), is over-tourism an issue that I have to grapple with? More importantly, are these dollars reaching those at the grassroots level?
· Sustainable development recognises that growth must be inclusive and environmentally sound to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity for today’s population, and to continue to meet the needs of future generations (World Bank).
· The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide for the Caribbean a means of transitioning from decades of anaemic growth towards sustainable and inclusive growth and development, which spans areas of environmental protection to gender equality to peace and justice.
· The SDGs are not ends in themselves; rather they are tailored to inclusive growth and development. We often times measure growth from a macro perspective, and we in the tourism industry are guilty of it too.
· Primarily, we look at the number of arrivals and spend per visitor. But are we measuring growth at the grassroots level? How much of the spend reaches our farmers, our manufacturers, our artisans, our vendors, the people of our grassroots communities?
· According to the United Nations Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean, in their symposium in 2015 in Trinidad and Tobago entitled “The Caribbean and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda”, the Caribbean has lagged not only in terms of absolute growth, but also relative to other developing countries, falling behind growth rates in East Asia and Africa in every decade since 1970, as well as behind the Least Developed Countries since 1980.
· It was also found by Ruprah cited in a 2014 IDB publication, that the Caribbean has performed poorly even relative to other small island developing countries. The UNDP in their Human Development Report for Latin America and the Caribbean 2016 report expressed their particular concern over the 25-30 million people in the regions – more than a third of those who left poverty since 2003 – who risk falling back into poverty, many of which are youth and women.
· Concerns were also raised by the UNDP about the success of small and medium enterprises, which are said to contribute over 90% of employment and 70% of the GDP in the Caribbean.
· These included:
I. The low level of access to credit and restrictions to financing, and
II. The high costs involved in hiring a worker formally in relation to productivity gains, in particular due to the non-wage-related costs involved in hiring formal labour in terms of health, pensions and training.
· We must note, however, that we have made progress. The report on this symposium indicated that World Bank has classified all Caribbean countries, with the exception of Haiti, as having either high or middle income status, with most countries in the middle income group – Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname. The five countries classified as high income were Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago.
· But what does this tell us? These results tell us that despite growth at the macro level, and our classification as middle income countries, our human population still remains vulnerable as the benefits are not reaching the people at large.
· Ladies and gentlemen, we are at a stage where growth is not growth if it does not reach the grassroots level. Distribution and retention are serious issues that we grapple with in the Caribbean.
· With the Caribbean being the most tourism-dependent region in the world, it would be prudent for us to examine tourism more closely to see how we can utilize it better for national development. Tourism is extremely relevant for all countries.
· According to a new report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the global Travel & Tourism sector directly sustains twice as many jobs as the financial sector and five times as many jobs as the chemicals manufacturing sector.
· Furthermore, in the Americas, the 42.7 million jobs makes the sector larger than banking, chemicals manufacturing, automotive manufacturing and mining in terms of job creation.
TOURISM FOR DEVELOPMENT
· The prospects for the tourism industry in Jamaica continue to be positive – the investment climate is vibrant with hundreds of new and refurbished rooms coming on stream; industry stakeholders are optimistic; and we are seeing record-breaking arrivals and earnings.
· There is no doubt that our island continues to be one of the highest performing destinations in the region
· Between January and June of this year, we welcomed a total of 2,165,330 visitors; an increase of 3.9 per cent over the same period last year. This figure comprised 1,186,646 stop over arrivals and 978,684 cruise visitors. In addition, the tourism sector earned some US$1.46 billion; a remarkable 7.5% increase over the same period last year.
· So how do we ensure that this tourism success translates into benefits for all our citizens in communities across Jamaica?
· My Ministry is putting in place initiatives to widen the net 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 realize sustainable growth.
· Importantly, at the same time, we are strengthening the linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy to increase the economic impact of tourism.
· The Ministry’s Tourism Linkages Network is playing a significant in integrating tourism with the wider society by increasing the consumption of local goods and services, creating employment, and generating and retaining more of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
· Since its inception the Tourism Linkages Network has been reaping success in its efforts to strengthen the relationship between tourism and other sectors, such as manufacturing, agriculture and the creative industries through various innovative initiatives, like Christmas in July Exhibition, Agro-Tourism Farmers’ Markets and Speed Networking Events.
· Now we are building on these successes and expanding the linkages framework through our five networks – sports and entertainment, shopping, knowledge, health and wellness, and gastronomy, which are adding a new and exciting dimension to our tourism offerings while creating a more sustainable tourism product.
UNWTO GOJ GLOBAL CONFERENCE
· This brings me to our Conference. Sustainable development is a concept that is being infused within all sectors of the economy including, of course, tourism.
· The United Nations has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The UNWTO has managed to narrow down the 17 SDGs to 5 key areas:
o Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
o Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
o Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
o Cultural values, diversity and heritage
o Mutual understanding, peace and security
· Arising from last year’s plenary session of the UNWTO Affiliate Members, of which I am the Chairman, the decision was made that the flagship event for the International Year will be hosted in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
· This is the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and the World Bank Group Global Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism.
· This conference will highlight three of the SDGs – SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth; SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals.
· I want to spend a bit of time on the consumption and production patterns because I truly believe that it is with the improvement of our consumption and production patterns that decent work and economic growth can be a reality in our sector.
· It is reported in our Tourism Demand Study, for example, that in Jamaica $70 billion (approx. over US$530 million) is leaked annually in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors; $65.4 billion (approx US$503 million) in the manufacturing sector and between $1.6 billion and $5 billion (approx. US$12 million and US$38 million) in the agricultural sector each year. These are $70 billion worth of opportunities for our people.
· On a more global scale, according to UNCTAD (2007), leakages in the tourism sector total up to 85% in some African least developed countries (LDCs), more than 80% in the Caribbean, 70% in Thailand and 40% in India.
· This means that while the consumption of our visitors is high, our supply side is weak. This is, the space in the tourism sector that ought to be occupied by our small and medium tourism enterprises, providing the agricultural produce, the oils for the spas, the neutraceuticals for the health and wellness tourism, the furniture for the hotels and restaurants, among other products.
· In 2015 the World Bank noted that formal SMEs contribute up to 60% of total employment and up to 40% of national income (GDP) in emerging economies. In 2017 they also mentioned that a major constraint for economic growth in the Caribbean is the lack of innovative enterprises which are likely to be key job creators. However, access to adequate finance to launch, develop, and grow is a principal challenge for small Caribbean businesses.
· Few financing options are available for start-ups and early-stage enterprises, as commercial bank loans are difficult to secure due to collateral requirements and venture capital and private equity activity is virtually non-existent.
· We, therefore, acknowledge that there is a call for more diversified sources of funding, in order to assist our small and medium tourism enterprises to flourish. This is where SDG 17 for partnerships comes in to play.
· This Conference will bring together multi-lateral funding agencies, development banks, and commercial banks as well as tourism ministers and CEOs in the industry (including tour operators, cruise airlines, attractions, etc.) to have the discussion on the policy frameworks and the fiscal space that needs to be provided for sustainable development.
· We are also collaborating with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) on a programme on the first day specifically for the Caribbean where we will discuss issues that are relevant to the Caribbean.
· We will examine the future of the Caribbean including topics that are specific to our region such as air connectivity, climate change, and safety and security. We will exchange best-practices and come up with a replicable and measurable action plan, as well as the publishing of the second volume of the UNWTO Global Report of Public Private Partnerships.
· I assure you however, that the Conference will not stop there. Already we are in discussions with our collaborator the Inter-American Development Bank and our friends in the Organisation of American States, about the follow-up meeting where we will, among other things, present the final Declaration of Montego Bay from the Conference as well as chart the course forward with a sustainable tourism agenda for the Caribbean region
· As a Ministry, our goal is to create a more productive, responsible and universally accessible tourism sector. We will continue to 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.