64 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5, Jamaica
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· Let me first extend my congratulations to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and her phenomenal team for the dedicated and focused work that they continue to do in protecting and advancing the best interest of our nation.
TOURISM THE MAIN DRIVER
· My friends, colleagues - Tourism will be the biggest driver for economic growth and prosperity in Jamaica for years to come and it is absolutely important that you are made aware of the work that we have been doing over the last year in 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 this beautiful island nation.
· The latest figures show that from January to December 2016, 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 the period Jan. - Dec. 2016 :- 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
· Investment in the tourism sector is booming which includes the renovation and upgrading of several properties. Over 3000 rooms are now available which we never had the winter before. Of that amount close to 2000 have and are coming on stream in coming weeks and months.
· Things are looking pretty good so far...we are talking about investments in excess of US$1 billion actively engaged. Among the Hotels that have recently completed or just commenced development projects and or plan further expansion in room stock or are now putting new rooms on the market are Excellence Group, Sandals, RIU, Bahia Principe, Royal Decameron, Royalton, Spanish Court, Moon Palace, the Hendrickson owned Wyndham, Half Moon, Karisma, Hilton Rose Hall, Secrets, China Harbour, the Renfrew and others that prefer not be named at this time.
· On top of those developments, increasing investments are coming on stream in the attractions sector including a near US$10 million investment into the Appleton Estate Rum Tour in St. Elizabeth by J. Wray and Nephew which is owned by Italian powerhouse, Campari.
· Beyond that, the Ministry currently has 15 projects under its Shovel Ready Initiative. The Shovel-Ready Initiative has been undertaken jointly by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and Commissioner of Lands to pre-package a number of investment offerings.
· The initiative also seeks to directly assist investors by obtaining tacit development approvals, conducting carrying capacity studies, assessing appropriate land utilization and installing preliminary infrastructure. By doing this, the process of investing in Jamaica's tourism industry is streamlined and expedited.
· Ladies and Gentlemen, we are off to a solid start...
· Tourism is a sector that has the potential to stimulate wide-scale economic activity, foster new growth in our communities, generate the jobs we need so badly and earn billions of dollars in foreign exchange. We are absolutely focused on positioning tourism to become a powerful catalyst for improving the socio-economic conditions of our people.
· Our targets are clear - secure 5 million visitors by 2021, by that timeline we also intend to generate US$5 billion in tourism earnings, increase the total direct jobs to 125,000 and add 15,000 new Hotel rooms.
· Now, how do we plan to achieve this? I have spoken of the Five Pillars of Tourism Growth, which my Ministry and our agencies are focusing on, as we seek to transform the island’s tourism sector, deepen linkages and achieve significant growth. These Pillars are:
o Tapping into new markets
o Developing new products
o Promoting investment
o Building new partnerships, and;
o Developing human capital
· Underscoring these five pillars of growth, are five networks, incorporating several key sectors, that will better integrate tourism with the wider society and thereby better spread the benefits to all Jamaicans. These five networks are:
o Sports and Entertainment
o Health and Wellness
o Shopping, and;
· Together, that renewed architecture of pillars and networks will be enveloped by the need to strengthen and expand linkages with our local agriculture, manufacturing and the service sector and importantly, encourage us to aggressively push multi-destination tourism as a response to the new global geo-political realities.
SPRUCE UP PROGRAM
· Now beyond this, in recognition of the need to incorporate as many Jamaicans into tourism and spread its benefits, our recently media launched Spruce Up Jamaica program will aide greatly in that effort. This programme was an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism while I served as Minister from 2007 to 2011. Its emphasis was on the Physical Environment, Mind, Body & Spirit, Community Development, Partnerships through Entrepreneurship and Promoting Heritage.
· It is against this background that the programme is being revitalized with modifications geared at: changing attitudes, fostering inclusiveness, strengthening implementation and monitoring for greater impact. It is geared towards the country’s growth and prosperity agenda with a focus on creating integration among industries and programmes that impact the tourism industry. It seeks to facilitate sustainable livelihoods through job creation, sound environmental practices, the participation of communities in local area development, facilitation of small and micro tourism enterprises (SMTEs) and effective integrated marketing communications — a vehicle for building out an inclusive industry.
GLOBAL RECOGNITION/ UNWTO CONFERENCE
· Many of you in this room are aware of the unprecedented number of awards we have been scooping up across the globe recognizing the amazing work we are doing in tourism here.
· Inarguably, the most significant development in global tourism is recent weeks occurred last month when we signed an agreement at the Palacio Neptuno in Spain, to host a major global conference to commemorate the 2017 United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
· The event, which is a collaborative effort between the Government of Jamaica, international development firm Chemonics International and the UNWTO, will be staged from November 27 to 29 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James. The agreement is of great historical importance because it signals the first time that the UNWTO will stage a world conference on tourism in the Caribbean or the Americas.
· Jamaica will have an international conference of great magnitude and importance to global tourism. We look forward to showcasing our destination but more so within the context of sustainability and the building of public-private-partnerships.
· As the Chairman also of the Board of Affiliate Members of the UNWTO, this is a very unique opportunity, as it will also allow the world’s spotlight to be on Jamaica, and by extension the Caribbean, which is heavily dependent on the economic power of tourism.
· Ladies and Gentlemen, Jamaica is a part of the Caribbean archipelago of states which is the most tourism-dependent region on earth. It means therefore, that to be positioned to invite the world to see us in practice of sustainability tendencies, embracing best practices, and showcasing how we have been able to manage, and grow and build the economic well-being of our people is something, that for us is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
· Two of the expected deliverables from this conference will be an Outcome Declaration and the publication of the second UNWTO Affiliate Members Global Report on Public-Private-Partnerships. The UNWTO will also present a report to the UN General Assembly in 2018, with regards to the activities of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, of which the conference will play a major role.
2017 will be a stellar year for tourism in Jamaica and I am confident that you will assist us in our efforts to make better our tourism product and see to it that we achieve the substantive economic and social growth and development needed to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.