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· Minister of Labour and Social Security and Member of Parliament for North East St. Ann, Hon. Shahine Robinson
· Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange
· Mayor of St. Ann’s Bay, His Worship Michael Belnavis
· President of the St. Ann Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Mr. Pixely Irons
· I am delighted to be here this afternoon to participate in the media launch for the annual Ocho Rios Seafood Festival as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of what has become one of Jamaica’s biggest and best culinary events.
· For many people this festival is a ‘must-do event on their Independence calendar, which is evident by the many thousands of people who converge on Turtle River Park each year to enjoy the great food and entertainment.
· My Ministry looks forward to seeing more festivals of this type, which provide wholesome family entertainment for both locals and visitors.
· Food is an important dimension of our tourism product. More and more people are travelling to experience the ‘food culture’ of other destinations, whether it is local restaurants and bars, farms and markets or vineyards and distilleries.
· In fact, it is estimated that some 88 per cent of tourists travel to destinations primarily to partake of the local food.
· Globally, gastronomy tourism has grown into a US$150 billion industry, according to data from the World Food and Travel Association.
· Here, at home, our outstanding food experiences are among the top three reasons why persons visit Jamaica. We have arguably some of the finest cuisine in the world.
· Our jerk chicken, our Blue Mountain coffee, our world famous rums, our seafood and all our other culinary fare have been delighting the palates of visitors from across the world for many years.
· What we are doing now is building out products around our restaurants and food culture so they can be drivers to bring more visitors to Jamaica and earn more money for our people. We are giving the visitors more things to do when they come to our island – tapping into their passion points.
· Events, like the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival, are essential to developing our gastronomy tourism product. In addition to serving as a source of income for local communities, food festivals bring residents together while instilling in them a sense of pride in showcasing local foods to visitors.
· Not only do festivals attract visitors, thus stimulating tourism, they also promote growth and the visibility of other businesses in a town or region.
· Ladies and gentlemen, I am excited about the future of gastronomy tourism in Jamaica; with our rich food culture we have all the right ingredients to take gastronomy tourism to new heights.
· It is an opportunity for us to add value to the island’s tourism sector by diversifying the product while promoting local economic development.
· Through the Gastronomy Network, which falls under the aegis of the Ministry’s Tourism Linkages Network, we are developing initiatives to strengthen Jamaica’s competitiveness in this sub-sector.
· I am already seeing some very impressive developments as the Network collaborates with tour operators to develop enticing food experiences across the length and breadth of the island.
· Earlier this year, we launched the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour, which offer visitors diverse and immersive tours, showcasing eateries, various attractions and coffee estates in the Blue Mountain region.
· And last month we launched historic Devon House as Jamaica’s first Gastronomy Centre.
· The Gastronomy Network is also engaged in mapping a comprehensive list of restaurants, food festivals, food tours and other culinary information, which will allow visitors to easily locate and get information on the island’s best culinary experiences.
· Also, there will be collaboration with tourism partners to boost the number of quality food festivals and constructively integrate food experiences with existing flagship events.
· I believe these efforts will help to position Jamaica as a first-class tourist and culinary destination, and will give the visitors good reason to spend more while they are here.
· In this way we will drive revenue earnings while we continue our efforts at increasing visitor arrivals to attain our target of 5 million visitors by 2021.
· Given the strength of Brand Jamaica and our rich and diverse cuisine there is no limit to the success we can achieve if tourism and gastronomy stakeholders come together.
· Each one of us here today understands the significance of tourism as an essential tool for the economic development of both our communities and the nation overall.
OCHO RIOS DEVELOPMENT
· More so, we all understand how heavily dependent the Ocho Rios economy is on the direct and indirect benefits of tourism. For this reason, not only are we encouraging product diversity that benefits the community through economic activity and job creation but we are also taking steps to upgrade the infrastructure and aesthetics of the town.
· To this end, the Ministry of Tourism, through its agencies the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), and in partnership with the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), continues to pump millions of dollars into Ocho Rios’ infrastructure development.
· The Ocho Rios Improvement Project is making significant headway. Four hundred million had been allocated to the town for this redevelopment project, some of which has been spent to complete the rehabilitation of:
§ Turtle River Road (330 million) - $68.2 Million
§ Cruise Ship Pier - $29 Million
§ Parking Lot and Terminal Building - $68 Million and $29 Million respectively
§ Pier Gate to Marina - $13 Million
· A further $293 million will be spent in the coming months as my Ministry continues its efforts to create a new visitor experience in Ocho Rios.
· In addition, Ocho Rios will be home to one of the island’s five Artisan Villages; “one-stop locations” that will facilitate interaction between visitors and artisans, who will create, display and sell their craft items on site. These villages will also offer a variety of live entertainment and local food.
· I am pleased with the way these projects are progressing and I am even more pleased that they will bring new jobs, stimulate tourism and bring more visitors into the town.
· Ladies and Gentlemen, Ocho Rios will be instrumental in helping us to achieve our growth targets and maintaining Jamaica’s competitive advantage in international tourism.
· In closing, I just want say that my Ministry welcomes events like the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival and we are proud to be a sponsor of this popular culinary event through the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).
· I commend the other sponsors of this festival. It represents a vote of confidence in the island’s culinary and entertainment culture, which continues to positively impact the entire world.
· I also want to commend Dynamic Events Services and Hah-R-Mony Entertainment for the hard work and dedication that they have put into organizing the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival.
· I wish you continued success.