64 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5, Jamaica
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OFANA President Norma Jarrett, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen…Good Evening
· It is an honour to have been invited to celebrate with you at the 11th Annual Reunion of the Ole Farmers Association North America (OFANA).
· I wish to commend the organization’s executive and members for the wonderful philanthropic work to foster the advancement in agricultural education among the students at Jamaica’s College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE). The undivided support of the mission and vision of your alma mater is truly admirable.
· Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are playing a key role in our nation's tourism growth strategy. We greatly value our network of partners, which includes hoteliers, the business community, arts and craft vendors, farmers, service providers and community-based enterprises.
· We are committed to strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones to ensure a collaborative inclusive approach to tourism development in Jamaica.
· The Jamaican Diaspora, including OFANA, is an important partner too. Our Government recognizes the impact and contribution of the Diaspora to our economy over the years.
· We intend to continue to strengthen our partnership with all members of Jamaica’s influential overseas community so we can better channel the impact of the Diaspora, not only for the benefit of the tourism industry but the nation as a whole.
· It is this kind of collaborative public-private sector approach that will provide the creativity, resources and direction necessary to fulfil our mandate of transforming Jamaica’s tourism sector and set in motion the means to accomplish greater growth.
STATE OF THE SECTOR
· As it is globally, tourism in Jamaica is big business. It central to our national economic development strategy and therefore has a primary role to play in ensuring the sustainable development of our nation and improving the standard of living for all Jamaicans.
· In fact, tourism is the biggest driver of economic growth and prosperity in the nation. 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 2016 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.
TOURISM AND AGRICULTURE
· As we build up for more significant growth, we are keen on repositioning the sector to achieve higher growth rates, a better spread of the benefits of tourism to each and every Jamaican and a stronger linkages through the economic fabric of our beautiful island nation.
· The Jamaican Government, too, recognises the immense importance of the agricultural sector to the development of our tourism product and, by extension, our economy. So much so, that our Tourism Linkages Network has been working closely with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Agriculture (MICAF), the Jamaica Agricultural Society and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to create and expand economic opportunities for farmers in the tourism sector and provide bigger markets for their products.
· It is our aim is to increase the local produce used in hotels and thereby reduce the leakages due to imports — which our research indicates is between J$1.6 billion and J$5 billion in the agricultural sector. So what does this tell us? That there are tremendous opportunities for increased linkages with local producers of goods and services within the tourism sector.
· When you consider that over one third of tourist spending worldwide is devoted to food (UNWTO Global Report on Food Tourism) then it is in everyone’s interest to reduce imports and encourage the use of locally grown produce.
· Tourism has ability to become the lifeblood of Jamaica’s agriculture sector. We have therefore, through the Tourism Linkages Network, being putting strategic measures in place to create opportunities and to broaden the market reach for our farmers.
· Our initiatives, such as Agro-Farmers Markets, Tourism Speed Networking and the Tourism Demand Study, have all allowed us to not only examine the needs of the industry but to also provide direct income-earning opportunities.
THE GROWTH FRAMEWORK
· This is all part of a wider strategy to further diversify our tourism product while strengthening linkages with the domestic economy.
· I am excited about the future of tourism in Jamaica as the public and private sectors come together to unleash Jamaica’s true potential as a tourist destination.
· The prospect for our industry continues to be positive – the investment climate is vibrant with hundreds of new and refurbished rooms coming on stream; industry stakeholders are optimistic; we’re boosting marketing, enhancing our tourism product and strengthening linkages between tourism and other sectors.
· There is no doubt that Jamaica continues to be one of the highest performing destinations in the region.
· The very strong performance of the island’s tourist industry means that we are on the right path to achieving our target of attracting 5 million visitors in the next five years and earning US $5 billion.
· Yet, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is still much work to be done.
· We are focusing on growing our earnings per visitor and striving to retain more of those earnings in Jamaica. To do this we are taking decisive steps to give the visitors more things to do when they come to our island – tap into their passion points – and we can only do this by diversifying our product offerings.
· A destination’s product, attractions and experiences drive a visitor’s destination choice. Therefore, developing a diverse and innovative product is essential for tourism to remain viable.
· Jamaica has so much to work with. We have amazing natural assets and a very distinctive culture. We’re the birthplace of jerk, we make the best rum, and we have spectacular scenery and great attractions. In Jamaica, we believe the people are friendlier and the music is great.
· In addition, Jamaica is a strong, internationally recognized brand – a marketers dream. This is what differentiates us from the competition. Now we must play to our strengths by diversifying our product and give the Jamaica Tourist Board a more diverse product to market.
· I speak often of the Five Pillars of Tourism Growth, which we will use to transform the island’s tourism sector, deepen linkages and achieve significant growth. These are:
§ Tapping into new markets
§ Developing new products
§ Promoting investment
§ Building new partnerships, and;
§ Developing human capital
· Underpinning these five pillars of growth are five strategic areas of focus, which will serve to further diversify our tourism offerings while building business opportunities and generating improvements in the competitiveness of our tourism product. These are:
§ Gastronomy Network
§ Sports and Entertainment Network
§ Health and Wellness Network
§ Shopping Network
§ Knowledge Network
· Should this cross-sector strategy perform optimally, it will play a major role in bolstering our position as a first class tourist destination, which in turn will increase our attractiveness to tourists and potential investors. We are already seeing great results.
· In closing, on behalf of the Government of Jamaica I want to once again thank you for your ongoing work to advance Jamaica’s agricultural sector. I look forward to OFANA strengthening its partnership with our nation as we work towards the same goal of ensuring that our agricultural community continues to progress.
· There is such great potential for our tourism sector, and for Jamaica. I believe we can work together to convert this potential into tangible benefits. I want this to be the start of a close working relationship between us that benefits both the Diaspora and our homeland.
· There is one thing about Jamaicans no matter where in the world we live, our heart always remains in our homeland. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I implore you to continue to fly the Jamaican flag very high. You are the most powerful and knowledgeable brand ambassadors for our tourism product.
· I wish you a successful and enjoyable reunion and many more productive years.