By Garwin Davis
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – A robust strategy that will better enable Jamaicans to tap into the vast potential of the local tourism sector is being developed by the government.
The move is in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and involves key stakeholders in the industry. It will address economic growth, environmental sustainability, cultural preservation and quality of life issues.
Addressing the first Tourism Strategy Development Workshop at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James, on June 2, tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, said that a well-defined tourism strategy and action plan “will help us identify the strengths and weaknesses of our tourism industry, chart our goals and objectives, and define the road map to achieve them.”
He noted that while the country remains a prime tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world every year, it has to evolve in order to maintain a competitive edge over rival destinations.
“We are renowned globally for our breathtaking natural beauty, vibrant culture, great food and warm hospitality. However, we can no longer rely solely on these assets to drive our tourism sector,” the minister pointed out.
“We need to understand that the global tourism market is becoming increasingly competitive, and we need to constantly evolve and adapt to stay ahead of the curve … to ensure we provide the best possible experience for visitors. We need to constantly evolve and adapt to ensure that the people of Jamaica benefit from and capitalise on future tourism opportunities,” he added.
As such, the minister highlighted that the need for a strong and comprehensive tourism strategy will further drive economic growth and development.
He noted that the sector now generates direct employment for 175,000 Jamaicans and indirect employment for more than 354,000 others, including farmers, craft vendors, entertainers and transportation operators.
“In addition, tourism is the single largest contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP), the main source of foreign revenues and one of the country’s main sources of exports. Overall, the tourism sector has grown by 36 percent over the past 30 years against total economic growth of 10 percent,” minister Bartlett said that the vision is to make tourism inclusive, the driver of the economy and the centre of community enrichment and human development.
“It calls for a shared commitment from each one of us in this room today. Let us seize this opportunity to work together; unifying our vision and efforts to secure the future of our beloved country and build a legacy we can proudly pass on to future generations,” he said.
Friday’s session was the first in a series of strategy development workshops being held in the resort destinations involving stakeholders from a wide cross-section of industries and government agencies.