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· It is truly a great pleasure to be addressing such a distinguished gathering of sportsmen and women, in particular golfers, officials, family members and friends, who will be participating in one way or the other in the PGA Tour Latinoamerica BMW Jamaica Classic.
· It is exciting that this celebrated international event is being staged in Jamaica and, more so, in the beautiful resort area of Montego Bay which boasts some of the best golf courses to be found anywhere. I’m sure that the golfing fraternity is looking forward to this event which comes on the heels of the prestigious Jamaica Open Golf Championship, which I understand, was very successful.
· As one of the biggest spectator sports around the world, golfing provides some thrilling moments for both players and spectators, but I understand that for many golfers, the two most exciting moments of a game are to score a hole-in-one and to get to the 19th hole.
· Oh, but the course has only 9 or 18 holes you say. Well, allow me to let you into a little secret; the 19th hole is to be found at the end of the game when golfers gather to celebrate with Bacchus.
· As one of the fastest growing destinations in the Caribbean, Jamaica has vast potential as a world-class golfing destination - boasting some of the finest championship golf courses, especially along the north coast from Runaway Bay, into Montego Bay and Tryall.
· Locally, the number of persons playing golf is growing and that is visible at the Constant Spring Golf Course; while on the North coast, playing a few holes in the morning is a must for golfers on vacation.
· At the international competitive level, we have successfully hosted such prestigious tournaments as the Johnny Walker World Golf Championship, the Heineken World of Golf and the Mazda Champions LPGA Tour.
· In fact, from as far back as 2009, Jamaica was voted Golf Destination of the Year for the Caribbean and Latin America by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators.
· The PGA Tour Latinoamerica BMW Jamaica Classic, scheduled to take place from June 12 to June 18, marks the return of PGA professional golf to Jamaica after a long period of absence.
· On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, and in particular the Ministry of Tourism, the Jamaica Tourist Board and Jamaica’s golfers, it is my pleasure to welcome everyone associated with this event as we anticipate keen competition on the course.
· Competitors can look forward to an incredible experience from tee off to follow through on the greens, hoping for a-hole-in-one with the intermittent fore to warn spectators as the ball takes flight. And you will want to avoid a bunker as you go for a birdie.
· The Ministry of Tourism is targeting a minimum of five million visitors annually and earnings of US five billion ($5B) dollars by 2021. We recognize that with its following and the vast resources of professional golfers, we must become more aggressive in marketing Jamaica as a golfing destination.
· That is why my Ministry has devised initiatives aimed at leveraging our strong position as a golf destination to attract golf visitors to the island and to capture a slice of the world's US$25 billion a year golf tourism market.
· The Government has, in fact, adopted a policy aimed at pursuing sports tourism vigorously as part of our strategic plan to diversify the tourism product.
· Taken against the background of the country enjoying an international brand recognition that provides it with a competitive advantage in the area of sports tourism, this move offers the most promise in terms of expanding the country’s tourism appeal.
· Furthermore, it is no secret that sports tourism is a very lucrative industry globally that has been outgrowing all other tourism products in recent years. While the global tourism market is growing at around 4.5%, the growth of sports tourism has reached to 14%.
· Indeed, sports tourism accounts for an astonishing US$ 600 billion or 10% of the international tourism market. An estimated 12 million trips are made per year for sports tourism purposes.
· The United States, our main source market for visitors, accounts for 90 percent of global golf travel. With a ready market at our doorstep and through partnerships with companies such as BMW, we foresee a full return of international golf to our beckoning courses.
· We have so much to offer as the preferred Caribbean tourist destination. As is the case globally, tourism in Jamaica is big business and is central to our national economic development strategy. It therefore has a primary role to play in ensuring the sustainable development of our nation and improving the standard of living for all Jamaicans.
· As the minister with portfolio responsibility for the industry, I am happy that tourism is playing its part as the biggest driver of economic growth and prosperity in the nation.
· Last year, 2016, was a record year for tourism in Jamaica in both visitor arrivals and tourism earnings. We recorded total tourist arrivals of 3.84 million, up by roughly 4 percent, with 2.2 million stopovers, up 2.8% and 1.66 million cruise passenger arrivals, up 5.5%.
· Estimated Gross Foreign Exchange earnings for year amounted to US$2.55 billion, up 6.2 percent, with stopover arrival earnings of US$2.4 billion, up 6.1 percent and cruise passenger earnings of US$148.6 million, up 8 percent.
· Already, 2017 is showing signs of tremendous growth as we make our presence felt in the marketplaces and continuously improve the product offering.
· The five pillars upon which the growth of the industry is being built are up and running. They are:
§ Sports and Entertainment
§ Health and Wellness
§ Shopping, and
· Tourism and Sports are a powerful mix; truly a winning combination. Through our Sports and Entertainment Network strategic steps are being implemented to market Jamaica as a top sports tourism destination to the world to attract a broader group of international travellers with diverse interests.
· After the excitement of a day on the golf course, another side of Jamaica awaits participants and their families. There are a wide variety of memorable attractions, savoury foods and an entertainment culture that is second to none.
· In addition to our fine luxury golf resorts, Jamaica offers a diverse culture and warm hospitality that appeals greatly to our visitors, more than 40 percent of whom are repeat visitors. All that is topped off by our world-acclaimed music and the richness of our mouth-watering cuisine that uniquely represents our motto of “Out of Many, One People”.
· In this little country of ours, in the sporting arena, we have produced some of the world’s most celebrated athletes and we are leveraging this brand awareness to our greatest advantage.
· In this quest, major events like the PGA tour are key as in addition to bringing visitors to our shores they also provide worldwide exposure. For this reason we are seeking to ensure that first class sporting events like these are a fixture on our sporting calendar
· And so, once again, in closing, I welcome BMW and look forward to a week of excitement in the PGA Tour Latinoamerica BMW Jamaica Classic.