The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - REGIONAL - Ar­ti­cle orig­i­nally pub­lished in the Ja­maica Gleaner

Min­is­ter of Tourism Ed­mund Bartlett, in con­ver­sa­tion with fi­nan­cial and mar­ket an­a­lysts, ac­knowl­edged crit­i­cism that the leak­age of earn­ings from the tourism sec­tor was as high as 70 per cent, but said the fig­ure was still the low­est among big in­dus­tries in Ja­maica. Es­sen­tially, of the money spent on Ja­maica’s tourism prod­ucts and ser­vices, just 30 per cent is thought to stay in Ja­maica. The rest flows over­seas to for­eign in­vestors in the Ja­maican sec­tor, and ex­ter­nal ser­vice providers.

But Bartlett, in his de­fence of how much Jamaicans ben­e­fits from tourism spend, said at the lat­est ‘Break­fast Con­ver­sa­tion with An­a­lysts’ hosted by MoneyMasters Lim­ited on Thurs­day, that the re­ten­tion rate in Ja­maica was about mid­point the per­for­mance of its re­gional peers.

“Thirty per cent re­ten­tion is per­haps the high­est value added in any in­dus­try in the coun­try to­day. Not even baux­ite gives you 30 per cent,” he rea­soned.

His state­ment came just as MoneyMasters Pres­i­dent Claudette Crooks was wrap­ping up the event. While thank­ing Bartlett for his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the fo­rum, she urged his min­istry to pub­lish tar­gets to re­duce leak­ages by 2030 — the date by which Ja­maica hopes to be re­clas­si­fied as a de­vel­oped coun­try.

“So while we mon­i­tor the growth in ar­rivals, we also mon­i­tor closely the growth in our re­ten­tion, no mat­ter how small it is,” said Crooks, who also called for the es­tab­lish­ment of a com­modi­ties ex­change for farm items, in­clud­ing toma­toes and other crops that flow into the tourism trade.

Ear­lier, Bartlett said in his speech that Ja­maica ranked 13th among the coun­tries in the world most de­pen­dent on tourism and that leak­ages will only be man­aged by in­creas­ing link­ages.

“This is why we es­tab­lished a $1 bil­lion re­volv­ing loan, through the Tourism En­hance­ment Fund and the EXIM Bank, to fur­ther as­sist with in­vest­ment for mi­cro and small Ja­maican-owned busi­nesses to build ca­pac­ity to cre­ate and com­pete,” he said. EXIM re­ceived 51 loan ap­pli­ca­tions to­talling $941 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion in the writ­ten speech.

The tourism sec­tor is per­form­ing at record lev­els, with around 4.3 mil­lion an­nual vis­i­tors who spend US$3.3 bil­lion, with a growth rate that is six times that of the over­all econ­omy.

“At US$3 bil­lion, it means US$1 bil­lion is in cir­cu­la­tion around the is­land, and you feel it in the in­dus­tries that are con­nected,” the tourism min­is­ter as­serted.

“As you ex­pand your loan port­fo­lios, look at tourism se­ri­ously,’’ he said, while not­ing that more lo­cal in­vest­ment is one of the ways to ar­rest or re­duce leak­ages.

Ja­maica Min­is­ter of Tourism, Ed­mund Bartlett

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