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Sectoral Debates 2008 - The Hon. Edmund Bartlett

Release Date: 
Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 16:15

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett

May 2008

SALUTATIONS

Mr. Speaker, permit me to begin my presentation this afternoon by first expressing my congratulations to you on being appointed Speaker. We benefit from your skill, leadership and astute understanding of our process, our personalities and our objectives.

I also want to express my gratitude to the people of Jamaica for their confidence in our team and to the Honourable Prime Minister for allowing me to serve my country in the capacity of Minister of Tourism.

I wish to also thank my Cabinet colleagues for their support. I especially want to thank those Ministries with which I collaborate on issues which impact tourism. I thank you for your kind support and willingness to create synergies for the benefit of Jamaica, land we love.
I want to thank the sector for the wellspring of goodwill and confidence they have reposed in me and my team and to affirm our commitment to live up to your expectations.

I also wish to commend my Permanent Secretary Mrs. Jennifer Griffith, Director General Ms. Carrole Guntley, and the diligent team of directors and staff throughout the Ministry and its agencies.

Let me acknowledge and thank the team of men and women who are leading the agencies. They are the Chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board and Jamaica Vacations, Mr. John Lynch; the Chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, Mr. Godfrey Dyer; the Chairman of the Tourism Product Development Company, Mr. Robert Russell; the Chairman of the Milk River Bath Hotel & Spa, Dr. Edward Wright, the Chairman of the Bath Corporation , Mr. Derrick Hamilton; the Chairman of the Devon House Development Company the Hon. Mrs. Carla Seaga and the Chairman of the River Rafting Authority, Dr. Carolyn Hayle.

I pay tribute to the Opposition and express my appreciation for the work that has preceded me. I value your support as we seek to grow this vital industry.

I must also place on record the support of my immediate family: my wife Carmen, my son and my brothers, who have been there for me while I have been out in the field, leading my team in my role as Chief Salesman for Jamaica.

Most notably, I thank my constituents, the people of East Central St. James, without whose support I would not have the honour of serving.

And above all, I thank God for giving me sustenance and strength.

Mr. Speaker, I crave your indulgence for a few moments to address the people of Jamaica.

LETTER TO THE PEOPLE

My Fellow Jamaicans,

We stand on the threshold of a new tourism, which has at its centre inclusiveness and partnership. By inclusiveness I mean that the new tourism offers each and every one of us a chance to benefit from this great industry; by partnerships, we mean that we are intent on inviting all the stakeholders to partner with us to make this industry deliver more for the country and the people of Jamaica.

At the Ministry of Tourism, my colleagues and I are mapping out a course of action which has you, the people of Jamaica, at the centre of our thinking, and at the centre of our decision making. The new tourism cannot be otherwise.

As tourism is the driving force of our economy, the growth and success of our industry is one of the most powerful factors in shaping the quality of life for every one of us, regardless of the work we do or the industry that provides our pay cheque at the end of each week or month. In the new tourism, each of us has a chance to use this powerful force to build a secure future for ourselves and for our children.

While Jamaica is known around the planet for contributing such amazing things to the world as our heady Blue Mountain Coffee, our fine Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, the dramatic Dunns River Falls and our inspirational reggae festivals, the most wonderful thing we give to the world is you, the people of Jamaica.

As the captain of this vessel which contains the most precious cargo – Jamaica’s tourism, I need all hands on deck – all of you, to ensure our safe arrival in that harbour of growth and prosperity.

I look forward to meeting you in your communities around Jamaica, as we transform our country into the premier tourism destination. And then the world will fully understand what we mean when we say, “Jamaica, Once you go, you know”.

Sincerely,

Edmund Bartlett, M.P.
Minister of Tourism

SITUATION ANALYSIS

Mr. Speaker, the lure of world travel is irresistible. Travel is fun, adventurous, educational and inspirational. More and more people are travelling despite the challenges of long lines, increased security and issues of insecurity around the world.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), tourism is the world’s leading business, worth more that 8 trillion US dollars in 2008 and increasing to 15 trillion US dollars by 2015. We aim to secure our slice of that business for Jamaica.

GLOBAL OVERVIEW

Last year, international tourist arrivals grew by an estimated 6%, surpassing the forecast of 4.1%, and exceeding the 5.5% increase in 2005 and 2006. It was the fourth consecutive year of growth, and this growth is expected to continue through the remainder of the decade although at a slower projected rate of 3%, providing an additional 6 million jobs worldwide.

The Middle East led with an estimated 13% rise. The Asia-Pacific region was up 10%, followed by Africa, up by 8 %. The Americas saw growth of 5%, while Europe grew by 4%.

REGIONAL & NATIONAL COMPARATIVE OVERVIEW

Mr Speaker, lets see how the performance of Jamaica compares with the that of the Caribbean. WTTC statistics indicate that in the Caribbean, tourism accounts for nearly 15% of the GDP, almost 13% of employment, with approximately 2 million jobs, and 18.2% of export earnings, or simply put one in every five dollars earned is from tourism.
In Jamaica, tourism contributes 10% of GDP and 9% of employment.
Continuing the comparison between the region and Jamaica:

    Stopover arrivals to the region in 2007 rose by just over 1%, and in Jamaica we saw a growth of 1.1%.
    The region’s cruise arrivals increased by 2%. Jamaica saw a decline of 11.9%. (Explain)
    The average room occupancy throughout the Caribbean stood at 65.8%. In Jamaica, the average room occupancy was 63%.
    The average revenue per available hotel room throughout the Caribbean was US$103.37 in 2006. In Jamaica, the figure was US$110, and we are currently at US$113.
    Gross visitor expenditure in the region amounted to US$27 billion dollars, up 6.72% over 2006. Jamaica’s gross foreign exchange earnings from tourism was US$1.9 billion, an increase of 3.9% over 2006.
    Tourist arrivals to the Caribbean from the U.S. grew by 0.9%, a growth rate clearly impacted by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The WHTI changed the competitive landscape for Jamaica where arrivals from this key market fell by 4.9%.
    Figures from Canada to the region rose by 12.5%; and from Europe by 2.5%. Jamaica experienced an increase of 24.1% from Canada, and 12.8% from Europe.

This was the performance for the calendar year 2007.

Our industry has taken off in 2008 with a healthy 13% increase in stopover arrivals for January through April over the same period last year, with a marginal increase of 1% in cruise passenger arrivals. The preliminary total visitor arrivals (stop over and cruise) for the period was a record 1.2 million, with an estimated 10% increase in earnings amounting to US$723.6 million.

Mr Speaker I would like to point out that today, Jamaica’s tourism:

    Is one of the largest earners of foreign exchange, contributing 47%;
    Employs more than 80,000 persons directly; and 180,000 indirectly;
    Has linkages to all sectors of the economy;
    And is the only industry in Jamaica today that provides support and assistance for every single layer of employable persons in the country.

Tourism is, therefore, our primary vehicle for transforming Jamaica into the great country she is destined to be.

AWARDS WON
Let’s review for a moment the awards and accolades we’ve been garnering lately:

    Montego Bay was recently selected by ASTA as one of the Top 10 International Hot Spots in the city category for Summer 2008.
    Ocho Rios was selected as a Leading Destination in the Latin America/Caribbean region on TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards.
    Condé Nast Traveler’s 2008 Gold List features a total of eight properties in Jamaica, cited for the best rooms, service, food, design, location and leisure activities.
    In its January issue, featuring its annual “500 World’s Best” survey, Travel + Leisure gave high accolades to Jamaica naming six of our properties.
    Jamaica was recently voted Best Caribbean Destination by Travel Weekly.
    We took home a record number of honours at the World Travel Awards, including Leading Caribbean Destination and Caribbean’s Leading Tourist & Convention Bureau; and Jamaica was named the World’s Best Cruise Destination in both 2006 and 2007. (add private sector accolades; Sandals as standard - Dubai)

THE WAY FORWARD

THE NEW TOURISM

But Mr. Speaker all of these accolades point us to the need to innovate, to change, to respond to the new demands of our industry so that we remain a world-class travel destination. We are adapting to meet the demands of new travellers, and to keep abreast of the ever-changing global landscape.

In touring the hallmark of competitiveness is innovation.

The industry must continue to be creative in its approach, as it is no longer enough to think out of the box. We have to think around the box as communication moves from the centre to the periphery. In order to stay on the cutting edge we now have to think not just spectacular … but iconic. To be on the cutting edge the product must be distinct, and unique. (Dubai)

In 2003, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) introduced a new vision and strategy presented as a Blueprint for New Tourism. At its core is the concept of a coherent partnership between the private and public sectors working in unison and in harmony to ensure benefits for everyone. It looks beyond the short-term considerations, focusing on the benefits not only for visitors, but for the people in the communities they visit, and it puts people at the centre.

So we must create a new tourism for Jamaica, one which is more inclusive, characterized by strategic alliances with the government, private sector and the communities. This partnership will provide a greater share of voice for indigenous entrepreneurs, international investors and small and medium enterprises.

Mr. Speaker, my vision is for a new tourism … a transforming kind of tourism built on the three pillars of Marketing, Product Development and Investment. This new tourism will chart the way forward and will begin with a re-tooling of the Portfolio areas of the Ministry.

SUMMARY OF THE PORTFOLIO + RESTRUCTURING

THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM will see changes affecting three major areas:

Establishment of Ministry of Tourism Western Regional Office

Suitable space was identified for the Western Regional Office in Montego Bay. It will be located at the newly constructed “Praise Concourse” building on property overlooking the Sangster International Airport. By combining the regional staff of the Ministry, JTB, TPDCo, TEF and JAMVAC, it will create efficiencies in operations through synergies and sharing of compatible systems and facilities. It will also give the Ministry a major presence in the premier tourism resort thereby allowing industry access to product and quality advice, training, marketing and visitor services.

Establishing a centralized Communications Unit

At the Ministry we are strengthening our capabilities to respond in a communication savvy world. This central communications unit will deliver our strategic plans, programmes and policies to the wider community.

The Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development is to be reviewed and revised. In many instances, the industry has surpassed the projections in the current plan while in others, we have not achieved the goals that were set.

THE JAMAICA TOURIST BOARD (JTB) will be adding a new department that will facilitate increased productivity. Cruise will a major area of focus, and the newly created department of Cruise, Marine Tourism and Attractions will drive this process. This department will promote land-based attractions and marine tourism activities.

The retooling of the JTB will make it more responsive to the marketing needs and provide technical support to our stakeholders, especially the SMTEs.

JAMAICA VACATIONS LIMITED (JAMVAC) has been resuscitated as the principal agency to drive airline relations and to secure airlift to our destination. They will be responsible for all negotiations with airlines and tour operators regarding seat expansion.

JAMVAC will be staffed by an Executive Director, an Administrative Manager, a Director of Sales and appropriate support staff. We are in the process of engaging the services of the new team which will be announced shortly.

THE TOURISM PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT COMPANY (TPDCO) is our main project development and implementation agency. It is responsible for training, quality assurance, product development, and resort planning. Restructuring will result in four main divisions:

    Attractions Development and Technical Services, which includes Craft Development;
    Training;
    Product Quality; and
    Corporate Services

The new department, called Attractions Development and Technical Services, will fall under the leadership of a Deputy Executive Director. This department will be responsible for the innovations in attractions and craft development.

The new tourism calls for more high touch service delivery and TPDCo is being retooled to ensure that our service standards reflects that concept.

The other agencies of the Ministry will continue to operate and will be guided by their purpose. These are the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), Milk River Hotel & Spa, Bath Fountain Hotel Spa and Devon House.

This is the new structure Mr. Speaker, which has been carefully crafted to make us fit for purpose to carry out the mandate of the new tourism. I now want to turn to the policy framework which will shape the future.

POLICY FRAMEWORK

TREATING TOURISM AS AN EXPORT INDUSTRY – A TOP PRIORITY
Conventional wisdom defines an export as commodities crossing geographic borders. The logical inference here Mr. Speaker is that there must always be a third market. The reality of tourism is that we have brought the third market to our domestic soil and have enabled our local suppliers to earn foreign exchange.

Mr. Speaker, tourism is not now seen as a sector within the national accounts let alone an export sector. It is classified under Miscellaneous Services, Clubs and Restaurants. This is untenable and we need to address it. This Government, in its manifesto gave an undertaking to Jamaica that tourism will be made an export sector. Cabinet has approved this policy framework and has established a Task Force with the mandate to reposition tourism as an export sector.

In addition, to adequately measure the input of tourism on the economy and its contribution to GDP and employment, a Tourism Satellite Account will be established.

TOURISM SATELLITE ACCOUNTS

The development of Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) is key to improving measurement of industry performance, and in positioning tourism as the engine of economic growth for Jamaica. Work on the TSA is already quite advanced, and forms part of the New System of National Accounts (SNA) being implemented by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). Discussions with STATIN and the Planning Institute of Jamaica to review the status of TSA are at an advanced stage.

DEVELOPING OUR HUMAN RESOURCES

We began by saying that people are at the centre of tourism. The new tourism demands a highly skilled, efficient and competent human resource pool. And our purpose is to meet the demand for this high calibre new tourism worker with an affinity for high touch service.

Mr. Speaker, over the next two to three years, the industry will need an additional 33,000 workers in the accommodation sub-sector alone.

We already have a number of excellent training facilities that includes Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART), the University of the West Indies, the University of Technology, Northern Caribbean University and the Community Colleges. But there is a gaping need for training at the mid and upper management levels in the industry. We intend to fill that gap by establishing a school of hospitality in Montego Bay.

HOSPITALITY TRAINING

As our tourist industry grows, we are naturally working on capacity building in the service sector, with enhancement to our training facilities and building of the service ethic. Our aim is to recruit an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 new hospitality students over the next five to 10 years, and to guide them in shaping successful careers in this exciting industry. In designing the new Hospitality School for Jamaica, we have consulted with the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

When the school opens in late 2009, in Montego Bay, it will provide practical middle management and supervisory training in all areas relevant to the delivery of excellent service. The Spanish government has committed US$1 million for technical assistance and soft loans for the development and training processes. Students will benefit from certification, accreditation, monitoring and evaluation. The teaching philosophy will underscore tourism’s all-important role as a key driver of the national economy and will fully communicate the concept of high-touch service. It’s another example of putting people at the centre.

GRATUITY/HOUSING

Mr. Speaker, a concern that we have is that the average tourism worker earns wages in the lower quartile of our salary scale which is augmented by a gratuity programme. We believe that an improved quality of life for workers in the tourist industry is vital to growth and sustainability. The Ministry is therefore examining ways in which improvements can be effected without compromising the competitiveness of Jamaica’s tourism sector. Therefore the Ministry is fully behind the move to amend the Income Tax Act to reflect the tax free limit of $250,000.00 for tourism workers and that every dollar earned above $500,000.00 will attract the 25% income tax rate.

This would prevent beneficiaries losing a tax free benefit of $250,000.00 once their salary exceeds $500,000.00 during the calendar year. We are in discussions with the Ministry of Finance with a view to increasing the threshold.

In addition Mr. Speaker, we will be making representation to the National Housing Trust on behalf of the workers to include gratuity as part of the earnings in determining eligibility for mortgage benefits. We are determined Mr. Speaker, to ensure that adequate shelter is available for workers within the industry.

Pension is the means by which the financial security of the tourism worker is assured. My Ministry is committed to work with the industry to establish an adequate pension plan for every worker in the tourist industry. I am pleased to advise Mr. Speaker, that Cabinet has already approved a Steering Committee comprising government agencies and industry partners to develop the plan.

MAKING THE TOURIST INDUSTRY MORE ATTRACTIVE AS A CAREER CHOICE is an important area of focus. Decent wages and conditions of work for industry workers are important considerations in the sustainable development of the tourism sector. The Ministry is resolved to addressing this problem as quickly as possible by encouraging and facilitating the collaboration of employers and workers in the tourism sector in the development of these schemes.

PROJECTIONS FOR THE FUTURE

OBJECTIVES & TARGETS
The new tourism demands objectives and targets which will not only redefine Jamaica as a destination of choice but will also determine new levels of growth in visitor arrivals and expenditure.

OPERATION DRIVE FOR FIVE.

Many of you have heard me say that tourism is the engine that drives our economy. I have a special project on the drawing board called DRIVE FOR FIVE, geared to accelerating our growth to five million arrivals by the year 2012, earning five billion dollars.

This growth will benefit many related industries. In 2006, the average daily tourist spend was US$110. By 2012 we hope to increase the number of visitors by 75% to five million and the daily spend to $160, making Jamaica’s tourism sector worth $5 billion annually and boosting revenue for all areas of hospitality, entertainment, retail and craft vendors.

This huge initiative will also make new revenue available to address issues like poverty, domestic crime, and drugs, and will embrace programmes that put our people at the centre.

This would mean that we will need to have double digit growth each year in both arrivals and expenditure. Our objective therefore must be quite clear Mr. Speaker – to extend our marketing dollars to reach further afield, to increase our room count and our attractions, and to increase visitor spend.

Over the next three years, the JTB will seek to achieve the following objectives:

    Increase stopover arrivals by 11.6% per annum;
    Increase cruise passenger arrivals by 6.3% per annum;
    Increase gross foreign exchange earnings by 11% per annum;
    Achieve an overall annual average hotel room occupancy rate of 66% by 2010/2011.

And the targets for 2008 are:

    2 million stopover visitors for a 13.5% increase
    1.25 million cruise ship visitors for a 1.9% increase
    and gross visitor expenditure of US$2,327 million for 15.8% growth
    30 000 rooms by the end of 2008

GOING TO MARKET

Mr Speaker, marketing is going to be the central tool for achieving the objectives of Operation Drive for Five. It is one of the pillars of the New Tourism. The following strategies will be pursued:

STRENGTHENING OUR EXISTING CORE MARKETS of USA, Canada and the UK . The US is the largest outbound tourism market in the world. According to the WTTC the US will continue to outpace all other outbound tourism markets not withstanding the predictions of recession. Jamaica’s share of the US market is less than 1%; and our access and proximity to the US market put us in a most favourable position to achieve greater market share. Currently the US contributes roughly 2 million of the 3 million visitors to our island last year. In 5 years, we aim to get 3.5 million visitors from the US market.

CANADA is a fast growing market for us with 24% increase in 2007, it is pacing this year in excess of 30%.

THE UK grew by 5.9%.
Together, these three markets contribute 88.7% of the total arrivals and we will continue to work to grow them. In fact, currently, the JTB is conducting focus group discussions in the US to better understand the constraints and motivators relating to travel to Jamaica.

EXPANDING THE GROWING MARKETS of Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America

DEVELOPING THE EMERGING BRIC markets of Brazil, Russia India, China. We are also including Japan in this strategy as we seek to rebuild that market.

AIRLIFT – the industry is being challenged by increasing oil prices and significant escalation in the cost of travel. Airlines are looking for routes that will maximise their returns. They are looking for countries with a critical mass that will support a load factor of 75% or more. This means we have to create the environment which will support direct flights and provide inducements for co-marketing arrangements and multi destination strategies (Cuba as an example)

Our strategy therefore is to use JAMVAC, our negotiating agency, to broker arrangements with these airlines and tour operators so as to provide seat support. We are pleased to say that since the start of the year Mr. Speaker, we have successfully negotiated increases in airlift from all markets including markets we had lost. So far, we have increases in airlift out of Canada, USA, Europe, particularly Russia, Italy and Spain. There are strong possibilities for code sharing which are being pursued with airlines from Asia.

Mr. Speaker, It is important that we conclude the outstanding air service agreements, especially with Mexico which could provide another route to connect to China.

Hubs and Spokes

ADVERTISING – Mr. Speaker, a destination’s marketing is as good as its advertising and promotion activities. In that regard, the JTB will be redefining its advertising and marketing strategies by using more creative advertisement buys and extending their public relations reach. For example, we will use cable and direct TV in a more strategic way. In addition, the JTB will seek to partner more with our global stakeholders who have enormous distribution and marketing capabilities and a highly integrated system. (TUI, Spanish partners, Sandals as examples).

WEB SITE DEVELOPMENT – In a few short weeks, the JTB will be launching its new web site, at a cost of US$350 000. This is not just about developing a site – it is about using the available technology to understand the audience and the marketplace and developing a concept that is guided by the prevailing trends. This cutting edge destination site will move beyond artistry to providing improved functionalities which will deliver a virtual visit to the user. The trend is for more and more persons to research and book their vacation online, and this will make the site even more valuable to SMTEs.

Mr. Speaker, in order to meet the expectations of this new influx of visitors, our product has to be spruced up.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

The product is the environment and one of the biggest threats to the environment is poverty. We must also acknowledge that the future of tourism investment and development is contingent on a more responsible approach to balancing growth with environmental sustainability.

Developing countries have a real challenge in this area Mr Speaker. Sometimes the choice is between abject poverty and preserving a pristine environment. We need a practical coexistence. The GOJ must be committed to ensuring that the mechanisms for development and enforcement satisfy our obligation to the environment, while improving the economic conditions of our people. It is not about one or the other. We can’t lose the product by irresponsible development practices and at the same time we can’t lose the opportunity for economic and social advancement of our people.

Bearing in mind that the people are at the centre of tourism, all developments are being carefully monitored, with conservation of our precious environment always top of mind.

In growing our tourism product, we have seen the addition of spectacular new hotels and attractions, and some very stylish enhancements to existing properties.

This year, we expect to expand our room count from 27 000 to 30 000. We expect the following rooms to come on stream:

    RIU Montego Bay (700)
    Iberostar (650)
    Fiesta (950)
    Spanish Court Hotel (112)
    Palmyra Rose Hall (643)
    Trident (28 on record)

Over the next three to five years, the following accommodation facilities are expected to come on stream:

    Amaterra
    DeCameraon
    Negril Peninsula
    Bahia Principe
    Grupo Excelencias
    Secrets
    Dragon Bay (Launch)

Casinos will be a critical component in the growing luxury market as we further diversify our entertainment experiences to attract the lucrative high end market. The two mega resorts which have indicated interest in operating casinos – Celebration Jamaica and Harmony Cove – will add over 10 000 new luxury rooms to our accommodation stock.

Casino hotels have higher employment ratios than traditional EP and All Inclusive properties. So with a conversion rate of 2.5, these two properties are expected to employ about 25 000 workers. Earnings to the government from these two properties could be in excess 30 billion Jamaican dollars per year. Mr. Speaker, Jamaica will not be a casino gambling destination. Rather, gaming will be a part of the entertainment experience in tourism. The policy framework is currently being developed by the Lalor Committee and we are expecting to receive a report by the middle of this year. This will inform the legislative process.

On the Attractions side, we have Mystic Mountain coming on stream , and we are seeking to encourage other such unique attractions to join Kool Runnings Water Park, Dolphin Cove expansion, Chukka Caribbean, Jamspeed Rally Experience, Outameni and others.

The New Frontiers

PROVIDING ASSISTANCE TO SMALL HOTELS – A PRIORITY

Mr. Speaker, these represent the mega project that will be coming on stream but the indigenous sector is fuelled by the Small and Medium tourism enterprises and it is our commitment to reposition them. In that regard, the Ministry of Tourism and the JHTA have developed a raft of programme to provide

    Technical Assistance
    Financial Assistance
    Marketing Support

The Ministry of Tourism has initiated a project to support hotels with 10 to 100 guestrooms as these are important to the diversification of our tourism product. We plan to help with funding to implement upgrades, improve competitiveness, and achieve long-term profitability.

MR. SPEAKER, THE JAMAICA HOTEL AND TOURIST ASSOCIATION, in association with the Inter-American Development Bank, the JTB and the TPDCo, are undertaking a thirty month programme to increase the competitiveness of small hotels.

The programme is designed to create a network of small hotels and villas and is intended to improve their tourism services and product delivery to world class standards. The programme will help with promoting these properties within the market place. In order to ensure that these properties continue to get the support they need, two permanent members of staff have been hired to staff the Project Unit which is sited in the JHTA.

Mr. Speaker, the project includes a comprehensive training programme for owners and managers, including marketing skills and environmental management. Hotels with similar characteristics are being clustered and branded, so as to facilitate the marketing of these properties.

A special web site is being developed, as well as well as other promotional materials. Three inspectors are being trained to undertake the inspection of these hotels and to facilitate the branding of these properties. The project is expected to cost US$1,015,799.

SPRUCE UP JAMAICA, NICE UP YUSELF!

Mr. Speaker, The Spruce Up Jamaica, Nice Up Yuself journey is an ‘all embracing transformational activity’ intended to bring all Jamaicans into the circle of people who understand the importance of tourism to his or her personal advancement, as well as to national development.

In the competitive environment in which Destination Jamaica exists, the Spruce Up Jamaica, Nice Up Yuself programme can help to improve Jamaica’s competitive advantage.

The outcomes will include improvements in the quality of service, which I refer to as “high touch service”, and a commitment on the part of each Jamaican to support and protect this important industry. This will bolster the new tourism thrust.

The Spruce Up Jamaica, Nice Up Yourself! Programme was initiated by our Ministry in November 2007. In the period leading up to the start of the 2007/8 Tourist Season, all resort towns were “spruced up”.

The first phase of Spruce Up focussed on the physical environment, Mr. Speaker. Verges were cut, sidewalks were cleaned and curb walls painted. Garbage bins were purchased and placed on the streets and Citizens came forward to participate in clean-up days.

The second phase of the Spruce Up programme will be launched on May 21 in Montego Bay. This phase is going to be more expansive as it has five major components: The Environment, the Community, Craft Development, Heritage Link and what we call Mind, Body, Spirit. The details of this programme will be outlined at the launch.

Mr. Speaker, tourism is linked to almost every aspect of life in Jamaica, and so all of us are part owners of this important industry.

SUPPORTING OUR ARTISANS

Mr. Speaker, the development of the craft sector is of utmost importance to the diversification of the country’s tourism product. In this regard, Government will support the network of players in the product-to-market chain. This includes craft producers, vendors, marketing agents, exporters and service providers such as designers, trainers and business development practitioners. All of this is to be co-ordinated and managed by an umbrella organization to be called the Craft Development Institute (CDI).

The Honourable Prime Minister has assigned the HEART Trust/NTA with the responsibility to establish CDI which is to be located on the North Coast. The CDI would enhance the tourism product by being a dedicated agency for the research, training, manufacturing, and promotion of the traditional craft of Jamaica. The CDI will also support the effort of the producers of fine art. The Ministry of Tourism will be giving support to this initiative.

ARTISAN VILLAGES

Another initiative in support of this sub-sector is the creation of artisan villages. The Ministry through TPDCo intends to transform the existing craft shopping experience by establishing these artisan villages in each of the resort areas.

The Artisan Villages will be developed as thematic attractions that will bring important benefits to tourism including the provision of linkages. Each village is expected to encompass several elements of a Jamaican cultural experience:

    art and craft stalls,
    traditional cuisine,
    entertainment,
    sporting facilities,
    musical and other cultural offerings.

An important element of this concept is the opportunity for interaction between the visitor and the Jamaican artisan. Artisans will be displaying their skills of trade through live creation of their art. Visitors will also be able to participate in sporting activities such as six-a-side football or a game of dominoes.

The objective is that each village would offer a range of options to visitors and provide products that would be desirable to high-end niche markets as well those visitors seeking more simple reminders of Jamaica. Similar types of artisan villages can be found in Mexico, Colombia, parts of New Zealand and parts of the USA.

Initially Artisan Villages will be established in Port Antonio, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. The first village is slated for development on Success Beach in the Elegant Corridor.

FOCUSING ON THE HEALTH AND WELLNESS MARKET

The New Tourism Mr. Speaker helps us to diversify and explore new frontiers. The focus is on value added, luxury included products.

According to the recent Travel Industry Association’s Voice of the Traveler survey, 54% of travellers noted an interest in travel to a spa or a place where they could relax and rejuvenate. Spa travellers are generally high-net-worth customers who contribute to many areas of hospitality revenue by:

    Choosing high-end luxury accommodations;
    Staying longer than most other guests;
    Patronizing the best restaurants; and
    Shopping at top stores

India, Egypt, Panama and Cuba have been successful in this area. I am pleased to announce Mr. Speaker that Jamaica’s first Health Tourism facility will be built at Rose Hall in Montego Bay. (HOSPITEN)

Jamaica’s spas are elegant, chic, and spectacularly scenic. We offer a wide range of styles and treatment types, from traditional to cutting-edge, administered by professionals with finely tuned skills and long-term experience. Home-grown natural ingredients add a valuable dynamic. With these advantages, Jamaica is attracting a new generation of elite travellers looking for island-inspired pampering and luxury.

The Ministry has responsibility for two therapeutic spas, both of which are slated for upgrading. One hundred and fifty million (J$150 M) has been allocated for upgrading The Milk River Bath & Spa in Clarendon while One Hundred million (J$100 M) has been allocated for upgrading at Bath Fountain Hotel & Spa in St. Thomas. Work is expected to begin shortly at both properties.

GROWING THE LUXURY TRAVEL MARKET

In search of an exquisite travel experience and a vacation to carve memories that will last a lifetime, luxury travellers expect maximum comfort, extreme pampering, and read-my-mind service. Many of the new properties coming on stream have been designed for this demanding traveller.

THE ELEGANT CORRIDOR in the Rose Hall area will be enhanced to make it the most complete resort area. A total of $50 million Jamaican is being provided by TEF to provide traffic lights to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors. Landscaping will be a new project in conjunction with the property owners of the Elegant Corridor, and has been allocated $220 million Jamaican. A third aspect is the creation of an artisan village at Success Beach which I spoke about earlier.

Mr. Speaker, I need to sound a note of caution … the luxury traveller requires specific facilities to be in place for example jet ports, specialized customs and immigration services, yacht services … we need to prepare for these demands if we really want to grow this niche market.

MONTEGO BAY CONVENTION CENTRE With the growth in room stock in Montego Bay and with the bourgeoning convention business we have taken the strategic decision to construct a 75,000 sq feet state of the art convention centre to be located on 35 acres of land in Rose Hall. This facility will have capabilities for hosting large and small meetings, conferences, exhibitions, banquets and other events. It will be designed in a scalable fashion to allow for flexibility in its offering. This project is a true example of partnership as we are collaborating with UDC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with financing coming from the Government of the People’s Republic of China on favourable terms.

GOLF AS AN INGREDIENT IN LUXURY TOURISM There are some 60 million golfers in the world, of which about 32 million live in our primary tourist-producing market, North America. The sport is growing in significance with spectators and television coverage creating tremendous interest. Golf provides a unique selling point for any tourist destination. Mr. Speaker, Jamaica has all the ingredients necessary to exploit this opportunity:

    Proximity to the World’s largest outbound market
    Excellent climate all year round
    Good airlift and great access to major golf resorts from Sangster International Airport
    Twelve world class golf courses
    Highly trained caddies

We are committed to making Jamaica a much sought after golf destination.

VACATION OWNERSHIP is another area of significant growth. This segment also includes timeshare development and fractional ownership. There is a huge demand and significant potential for timeshare products in the Caribbean. In fact, research has revealed that the Caribbean is among the most preferred international destinations for new and existing timeshare owners.

We’ve been pursuing the feasibility of encouraging new investment into the development of these non-traditional vacation facilities. Jamaica already has foreign direct investments conceptualized around mixed-use development, including Palmyra, Harmony Cove, the Negril Peninsula, AM Resorts, and others. Also, luxury hotels like Ritz Carlton, Fiesta and Iberostar have the potential to offer timeshare. The high demand for Jamaica's Palmyra development speaks to the high interest in vacation residences.

Presently, there are some properties in Jamaica operating on a quasi timeshare model by offering a few select rooms to clients in spite of the absence of any timeshare legislative framework. The group Timeshare Exchange Companies is interested in Jamaica, and until legislation is in place, currently places properties in a rent inventory system in order to have a presence in Jamaica.

CALL TO ACTION

In closing, I cannot underscore sufficiently that action today is crucial to success tomorrow. Tourism is the engine that drives our economy, and represents the primary factor in determining the quality of life for each and every one of us in Jamaica.

You don’t have to be an hotelier, a restaurateur, an attraction operator or a tour guide to benefit from tourism. Every bus driver, every farmer, every mechanic, every postal worker, every homemaker needs the support that tourism provides in order to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in this, our precious homeland.

It is therefore in the interest of every single Jamaican to play his or her part in making and keeping this country the leading Caribbean tourist destination and one of the top choices for tourism at the global level.

Working together is crucial to progress. In the Ministry, we are proud that the reaction of the people to our Spruce Up Jamaica programme was one of enthusiasm, energy and immediate action, resulting in a fresh new look for each participating community. It represents a major step in a move towards improvement of our physical environment, and is a splendid example of the impact we can make by developing and working together with individual communities.

Similarly, our human resources development programme and communications programme are geared to sparking energized participation in projects that will support Jamaica and the quality of life here for each of us.

Supporting our tourism product is key at every level. Whether you’re building a 500-room hotel or adding one guestroom to your inn, whether you’re introducing a new waste disposal system or simply bending down to pick up an abandoned soda can from the street, whether you are landscaping a city or painting your own front door … every action, every gesture, every effort is of prime importance to our progress.

So I ask this of you now: please join us to ensure that Jamaica:

    Is and remains the place where we want to live above all others
    Offers a way of life we love now and always
    Supports us with sufficient income for our current and future needs
    Provides a secure future for our children
    Is safe and free of crime
    Is clean, fresh and orderly in appearance
    Provides a balanced environment with rich natural resources
    Is always welcoming to visitors needing our brand of hospitality
    Is and remains a place of irresistible charm!

Mr. Speaker, with people at the centre, tourism will make a positive difference to each of our lives.

 

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