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·       Mrs. Jennifer Griffith, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism

·       Mr. Dan Durazo, Director of Communications, Allianz Global Assistance

·       Mr. Godfrey Dyer, Chairman, Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF)

·       Mr. Ian Dear, Chairman,  Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo)

·       Mr. John Lynch, Chairman, Jamaica Tourist Board

·       Mr. David Dobson, Senior Director, Technical Services, Ministry of Tourism

·       Mr. Paul Pennicook, Director of Tourism

·       Mr. Omar Robinson, President, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA)

·       Mrs. Joy Roberts, Acting Executive Director, TPDCo

·       Finalists in the 2016 Tourism Service Excellence Awards

·       Colleagues from the Ministry of Tourism and its Agencies

·       Judges, Special Guests, Other Tourism Partners,

·       Members of the media, Good Evening...

·       It is my great pleasure to be here this evening to honour the best-of-the-best in tourism – those amazing individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to Jamaica’s appeal as a world class tourist destination.

·       Service excellence is essential for a sustainable and successful tourism sector and our Tourism Service Excellence Awards are our way of saying thank you to those who every day deliver exceptional experiences for visitors to our island.

·       These awards are our way of recognizing, celebrating and rewarding these dedicated individuals and organizations whose exemplary service has helped raise our tourism industry to the level that it is today.

·       Ladies and Gentlemen, the Tourism Service Excellence Programme (TSEP) is an integral part of our efforts to raise our tourism sector's competitiveness by motivating stakeholders to create compelling experiences and adopt best practices.

·       Whether someone is travelling for business or pleasure, the level of customer service that visitor receives on their trip will help determine whether they come back for another visit or warn friends to stay away, based on their bad experience.

·       I am proud to say that it is the top-quality service that keeps bringing visitors back to the destination and distinguishes and separates Jamaica from the rest of the competition. You have heard me say repeatedly that while we are well aware that our appetising food, attractions and our culture are major drawing cards, it is an undisputed fact that the Jamaican people, including our outstanding tourism workers, are our most iconic attraction.

·       That is why Jamaica, today, has the enviable record of being the destination with the highest percentage of repeat business in the entire Caribbean – enabling us to start every season with 42 per cent of visitors, who have been here at least once.

·       It is not by accident that we welcomed a record 3.8 million stopover and cruise visitors in 2016; a 3.9%increase over 2015 when Jamaica welcomed 3.6 million visitors.

·       It is not by accident that gross foreign exchange earnings from January to December 2016 amounted to US$2.5 billion; 6.2% more than the same period in 2015 when Jamaica earned approximately US$2.4 billion.

·       It is not by accident that investment in the tourism sector is booming, including the renovation and upgrading of several properties across the island. Over 3000 rooms are now available which we never had last winter. Of that amount close to 2000 will come on-stream for the current winter season which began on December 15, 2016.

·       As we celebrate the achievements of our tourism industry, we are mindful that we must give credit where credit is due. Our success as a leading tourist destination would not be possible without the hard work and commitment of persons like those we are honouring tonight – you, our awardees.

·       But even with the current success of the sector, we are repositioning tourism to generate higher growth rates in both visitor arrivals and earnings.

·       Our goal is to attract five million visitors by 2021; generate US$5 billion in tourism earnings, increase the total direct jobs to 125,000 and add 15,000 new hotel rooms.

·       Ladies and Gentlemen, to accomplish this growth imperative we must continue to ensure that all aspects of the product are right and that we can truly deliver on what we promise when we market Jamaica. 

·       National awards and recognition programmes like TSEP help to raise the bar in experience delivery; they help to drive a sense of ownership and pride throughout the sector, the communities and the nation at large.

·       Our ultimate objective is to create a differentiation in service that establishes a competitive advantage for destination Jamaica so we remain top of mind for our travel industry partners and travellers when making a vacation decision. This is what separates and differentiates us as a premier tourist destination.

  • That is why we are focusing on developing world class training programmes, so we have a cadre of skilled workers trained and certified to take advantage of opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industry.
  • You have heard me speak of the development of a Craft Institute and Tourism Institute. We are currently in discussions with stakeholders as we seek to finalize arrangements to establish these institutions.
  • In addition, we are determined to ensure that you – our tourism workers – feel a part of this vibrant industry and ensure that you feel as if you are truly benefiting from the sector.

·       For this reason we want to guarantee that having given exemplary service year in year out that when you finally retire you are able to cope financially.

·       We are therefore establishing a much need pension plan that will benefit all tourism workers, including Red Cap Porters, craft vendors, ground transportation operators and hotel workers.

·       This Pension Plan for Tourism Workers has been approved by Cabinet and is to come on stream by September 2017, seeded by one billion dollars from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).

·       This means that for the first time the workers of the tourism industry, not just those in the accommodation sector but all the workers in every category that contribute to the development of tourism in Jamaica, will have a plan.

·       We must take special care of those who have worked so diligently to make our tourism sector the great success that it is.

·       In closing, I want to take this opportunity to thank the TPDCo team for coordinating this amazing evening. Special thanks also to the Tourism Enhancement Fund, the Jamaica Tourist Board and our other sponsors for their support of this important recognition programme.

·       This evening’s finalists and awardees represent shining examples of service excellence in our industry. You have raised the bar in terms of enhancing visitor experiences and provide a benchmark of excellence to others in the sector.

·       We are proud of all of this evening’s award recipients and nominees. Once again, thank you for making Jamaica’s tourism industry a vibrant and thriving sector. We couldn’t do it without you. Congratulations!

Thank you.

Speech Date: 
Monday, April 16, 2018