Tourism op­ti­mism at all-time high

... as hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor is re­warded for lift­ing stan­dards

Jamaica Gleaner - - HOSPITALITY JAMAICA - Camille Miller Hos­pi­tal­ity Ja­maica Writer

MIN­IS­TER OF Tourism Ed­mund Bartlett said the tourism sec­tor is so uniquely poised that the next five years should see vis­i­tor ar­rivals and earn­ings soar­ing to heights that were once unimag­in­able and con­sid­ered far-fetched.

In a wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with Hos­pi­tal­ity Ja­maica last Satur­day, Bartlett said that if the cur­rent tra­jec­tory plays out, Ja­maica, by 2021, could see ar­rivals jump­ing to five mil­lion vis­i­tors and earn­ings reach­ing as high as US$5 bil­lion.

“I can­not recall a more ex­cit­ing pe­riod for tourism than what I am see­ing now,” Bartlett noted. “Never be­fore have we seen so many projects in the pipe­line or un­der construction, giv­ing rise to an un­prece­dented level of op­ti­mism on the part of stake­hold­ers.”

The tourism min­is­ter fur­ther noted that there will also be a lot of job op­por­tu­ni­ties from which Ja­maican work­ers should be able to cap­i­talise.

“We just have to look at all the jobs that will be­come avail­able and po­si­tion our­selves to fill them. We also want to en­sure that our work­ers are in­deed cer­ti­fied to the point where they can ef­fec­tively com­pete for top-tier level po­si­tions and earn prom­i­nent salaries.”

HIGH CON­FI­DENCE

He ex­plained that the tourism in­dus­try was cur­rently en­joy­ing a high level of in­vestor con­fi­dence, point­ing to the nearly 15,000 ho­tel rooms that are slated to come on stream over the next four years and the com­mit­ment by cruise ship­ping gi­ant Royal Caribbean Cruise Line to have all its Oa­sis class lux­ury ves­sels, in­clud­ing one that is cur­rently un­der construction, dock in Ja­maica.

“We are start­ing to see some re­mark­able things tak­ing shape through­out the in­dus­try,” the tourism min­is­ter noted. “Cruise ship­ping is start­ing to take off in a big way and we have a lot of new rooms com­ing on stream. When you have cruise ship­ping and stopover work­ing in sync and com­ple­ment­ing each, the re­sult can only be great for our coun­try.”

And as it re­lates to pub­lic projects, Bartlett said the min­istry has made it clear to all de­vel­op­ers and pro­ject man­agers that the pub­lic’s in­ter­est is para­mount and that time­lines will be set and mon­i­tored.

“There will be full trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity on all projects,” he added. “We will also be hav­ing a mon­i­tor­ing team from the min­istry to en­sure everyone is on the same page and that guide­lines are fol­lowed.”

Bartlett also pointed out that there are on­go­ing dis­cus­sions be­tween the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors as the min­istry continues to for­mu­late strate­gies to im­prove and strengthen the tourism prod­uct and in­fra­struc­ture in the re­sort towns.

“De­vel­op­ing our prod­uct is the key to future suc­cess, so it is es­sen­tial that we con­tin­u­ally ask what more we can do to keep pace with other world-class des­ti­na­tions,” Bartlett ad­vised.

He added that while he wel­comes the big in­vest­ments from the more es­tab­lished play­ers, a thought should also be spared for “the lit­tle man” who “also has an im­por­tant role to play.

“We have to change this per­cep­tion of elitism in the tourism sec­tor and open up op­por­tu­ni­ties for the lit­tle farmer who can’t pro­duce enough to go to the Euro­pean Union but can pro­duce enough for the small hote­lier or for Miss Maude’s restau­rant around the cor­ner,” the tourism min­is­ter pointed out. “He is a player, too, and we have to im­prove his build­ing ca­pac­ity.”

Bartlett fur­ther added that there are, in­deed, a lot of rea­sons to be­lieve “we are on the verge of turn­ing the cor­ner”.

FILE

Tourism stake­hold­ers cel­e­brat­ing the suc­cess of the Ja­maica Travel Mar­ket.

The Hy­att Ziva and Hy­att Zi­lara ho­tels at Rose Hall, Mon­tego Bay.

A ren­der­ing of Ho­tel Roy­al­ton Blue Wa­ters.

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