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·       Colleague Ministers

·       Mayor of Kingston, His Worship Delroy Williams

·       Mrs. Jennifer Griffith, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and other officials from the ministry and its agencies

·       Mr. Geoffrey Messado, Chairman, Devon House

·       Mrs. Janet Taylor, Executive Director, Devon House

·       Mr. Omar Robinson, President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association

·       Nicola Madden-Greig, Chair, Gastronomy Network and other Network Chairs

·       Members of the Media, ladies & gentlemen…

Good Evening...


·       Tonight at Devon House, history and gastronomy meet to create one of Jamaica’s premier culinary experiences.

·       This regal Georgian mansion is one of our most celebrated landmarks – a popular gathering spot for visitors and locals alike.

·       They come to tour the opulent 19th Century home of George Stiebel, Jamaica's first black millionaire; they come to relax and enjoy the expansive grounds of this historic city oasis; and they come for our world celebrated Devon House "I Scream" and other edible delights on offer.

·       It seemed only fitting then when we were determining the location of Jamaica’s first Gastronomy Centre – a place to bring visitors to experience the different culinary offerings through various package tours – that Devon House should be given the honour of this designation.

·       Culinary tourism is defined as being “any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates, and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional or national cuisine, heritage and culture.” 

·       The truth is Jamaica is a fusion of many different cultures. We are the product of the Spanish Occupation, the Slave Economy, Indian and Chinese Indentureship and British Colonialism. Add to that the Syrian and Jewish influence, among others, and you have a convergence of history and culture that has given birth to our national motto, “Out Of Many, One People”.

·       This rich heritage has resulted in a delightful culinary synthesis of cultures that you will experience right here tonight at Devon House – a Jamaican pattie and various coconut delights; the famous, or should I say infamous, Devon Duppy; Italian pizza; Middle Eastern fare and much more.


·       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.

·       Earlier this month I was in San Sebastian, Spain, where I attended the 3rd World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism, organized by the United Nations World Tourism Organizations (UNWTO) and the Basque Culinary Centre. Ladies and gentlemen, I must point out that San Sebastián is a world reference point for Gastronomy Tourism.

·       The forum consisted of different events held in various gastronomy hubs across Spain’s Basque Country, showcasing the variation of products offered.  It provided an excellent opportunity for leading experts in gastronomy tourism to discuss the current situation and challenges in Gastronomy Tourism worldwide, inclusive of areas of management and innovation in the sector. 

·       I am pleased that while there I was able to hold discussions with leading experts in gastronomy that are vital to the further development of the gastronomy product locally.

·       The event was hosted at the world-renowned Basque Culinary Centre. This is an institution which has a very similar teaching style to what I hope to establish in Jamaica through the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation (JCTI), which we will be establishing next year.

·       The Institute will serve to accelerate the transformation of tourism enterprises by engaging institutions and persons to stimulate and initiate new ideas as well as harnessing science and technology to transfer knowledge into practice within the sector.

·       Much like Basque, the Institute will operate like a laboratory where students will get hands-on experience in a modern institution that also offers training to acquire internationally recognized academic credentials and certification.

·       Gastronomy is one of the fastest growing reasons for people to travel. In fact, the international gastronomy market is approximately US$150 billion.  Therefore, as we continue to position Jamaica as an ideal destination for food tourism, through the Tourism Linkages Network, I believe we still have room to grow the market and ensure that every Jamaican can reap the benefits – which is why this forum was so important.


·       Ladies and gentlemen, gastronomy tourism provides an opportunity for us to add value to the island’s tourism sector by diversifying the product while promoting local economic development. 

·       This is why my Ministry has put in place the framework to develop our gastronomy offering. The Gastronomy Network, which falls under the aegis of our Tourism Linkages Network, has been hard at work developing initiatives to strengthen Jamaica’s competitiveness in gastronomy tourism as we diversify our product to generate higher growth rates in both visitor arrivals and earnings.

·       Under the very capable leadership of Nicola Madden-Greig I am already seeing positive signs that the Network will achieve its goals.

·       They have been working with tour operators to develop enticing food experiences across the length and breadth of the island. As Nicola mentioned, we recently had the soft launch of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour and Coffee Festival, which will offer visitors diverse and immersive experiences ‘from farm to cup,’ in the Blue Mountain region along a culinary trail that will showcase eateries, various attractions and coffee estates in the Blue Mountain region.

·       Given the vast potential, 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 gastronomic destination, and will give the visitors good reason to spend more while they are here.

·       Eventually, it is my hope to go a step further as we strengthen the framework for multi-destination tourism within the Caribbean.  I want us to leverage this strong link between destinations using gastronomy as a means for guiding tourists around the Region so they can enjoy a coffee festival in Jamaica, a farm-to-table dining experience in the Dominican Republic and a farmers’ market in Cuba. The multi-cultural and diverse foods of the Caribbean provide endless possibilities.

·       I recently returned from an official visit to the Dominican Republic with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other colleague ministers where we discussed the possibility of an MOU to push this initiative. This follows our signing of a similar MOU with Cuba, our neighbor. Together we have total annual visitor arrivals of around 12 million and earnings of around US$12 billion.

·       We must grasp opportunities for growth that secures higher yields per visitor, while building competitive industries and creating rewarding careers for Jamaicans.

·       Yes, we are seeing excellent visitor numbers and earnings from the tourism sector. We welcomed a total of 1.58 million visitors between January and April this year, representing some 795,000 stopover arrivals and 784,000 cruise arrivals. This earned us a record US$1 billion, a 6.5 per cent increase in earnings over the same period last year.

·       But product diversification is the only way that we are going to continue to grow these numbers to achieve our growth targets for the sector:

§  Secure 5 million visitors by 2021

§  US$ 5 billion in tourism earnings

§  Increase the total direct jobs to 125,000

§  15,000 new rooms.

·       Our new culinary culture is going to help us to achieve these goals and our Gastronomy Network is mandated to guide and grow this sub-sector in a steady and sustainable manner.


·       Devon House at 136 is still a remarkable beauty. Of course, as with all of us, the wear and tear of time has resulted in a few wrinkles and other visible signs of aging. Therefore it is no surprise that we need to invest in the upkeep and refurbishing of the iconic Kingston landmark and its lovely grounds, which provide such welcome green space in our capital.

·       To this end the Ministry of Tourism, through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), has invested millions of dollars - $151 million since 2012 – to refurbish Devon House and make it financially sustainable.  This includes the recent construction of a bigger and better ice cream shop.

·       Ladies and Gentlemen, today’s tourism market is driven by experiences and one of the most important aspects of experiential tourism is food. I am positive that many memorable food experiences will be created right here at Devon House.

·       I commend the Gastronomy Network for organizing this wonderful evening and I look forward to Jamaica playing a leading role in gastronomy tourism and sharing our food culture with the world.

·       It now gives me great pleasure to declare Devon House as Jamaica’s first Gastronomy Centre.

Thank you.

Speech Date: 
Tuesday, May 8, 2018