24 Mar Jamaica: Focus and relentless work to present a result ‘beyond expectations’
Minister of Tourism for Jamaica, Edmund Bartlett, explains the plan to move Jamaica’s core sector forward, strengthening their international profile
Tourism accounts for 10 percent of Jamaica’s GDP and 10 percent of jobs; it is the fastest growing industry in the country. Can you please begin by giving an overview of the tourism sector today?
Tourism has now embraced close to one third of the economic activity overall in Jamaica. Food represents some 88 percent of the reasons for people to travel globally and 42 percent of their expenditures. To build out gastronomy as the experience of choice for the visitor is the way to go to enable the larger portion of what visitors spend to remain in the destination. We encourage investment in agricultural development and the development of more winter vegetables in particular.
Besides that, we want to encourage the creative development of our own culture and products. We established the Craft Development Institute that is connected to our established school of art here. We will have a team of trainers that will go across the island to train the artisans to give them a better sense of what their creative horizon could be to open their minds and think deeper and wider. We established a fund at the EXIM bank and we put one billion Jamaican dollars to be on lending to the small and medium enterprises of these artisans and others at the rate of 4.5 percent.
Health and wellness sector is a 1-trillion-dollar industry in tourism worldwide. Jamaica wants to make a pitch in this area, and we have a rich biodiversity, which enables us to develop from our rich flora numerous nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products. We are excited about how cannabis, for example, can be utilized in this area to provide all sorts of paramedical applications and products for spas and for general rejuvenation and alternative health prescriptions.
Furthermore, we have entertainment, music, and arts. We have some of the finest sportsman the world has ever seen. Music, of course reggae is well accepted all over the world. Bob Marley is an icon and there are a number of Jamaican artists who have played their part and have made their name on the international scene.
The final area that we embrace is knowledge: meetings, conventions, exhibitions and edu-tourism. Jamaica is well-positioned to create smart applications to utilize these tools of the digital transformation to make a difference in terms of the types of experiences that visitors have.
Tourism in Jamaica and the world has been seen more as a seasonal industry. Tourism workers across the world are generally seen as seasonal workers without tenure. Our efforts aim to give them tenure, enabling for them a professional cadre to move through. We have developed a comprehensive pension plan for all the workers in the tourism industry. This is a huge piece of social legislation that I think is landmark legislation for the workers of the industry. By this single act we are not only providing social security for the worker but also an investment tool that can drive growth in the economy overall.
What lesson can other countries in the region and around the world draw from the Jamaican experience?
We recognize that we have to build resilience. We have to build our capacity in the region to withstand these disruptions, to recover from them. It is to that extent that we wanted to look at what kind of institutional framework we can set up that will enable us to do the research and create a compendium of best practices.
The centre that we established, the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, is the first of its kind in the world, with the purpose of bringing together qualified and technically competent minds to develop strategies and ways to assist countries in thriving. By the end of this year we will have the offices and space for our staff to move into the center.
How can Jamaica continue to move up the ranks and continue to promote its brand to the world?
Jamaica offers a lot in terms of resilience building, destination assurance, marketing, as well as product development. Jamaica is investing in creating new and exciting experiences for visitors. Today’s visitors are not driven by brands, they are driven by experiences. They are driven by travel, to fulfil their passions and experience those things that will make them bigger than themselves, which will make them expand their own realm and their own appreciation of life.