KINGSTON, Jamaica, September 26, 2017 (CMC) – The Jamaica government says tourism continues to be the main engine of economic growth, providing indirect employment for one in every four people in the linked sectors, including agriculture, the creative and cultural industries, entertainment, manufacturing, transportation, finance and insurance, electricity and water, and construction.
“In 2016, the hotels and restaurants sector employed 94,850 people, compared with 88,250 people in 2015. This represented approximately 8.1 percent of the employed labour force,” Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, said as he addressed the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre that ends here, later today.
Holness said that tourism, by the nature of its operations, “has the potential to stimulate wide-scale economic activity, drive new growth in our communities and earn billions of dollars in foreign exchange”.
“Tourism is, therefore, ideally positioned as a powerful catalyst for improving the socio-economic conditions of our people.”
Holness said he is pleased that, for the first eight months of 2017, there was a 6.9 percent increase in stopover arrivals, in comparison to the corresponding period for 2016. Cruise passenger arrivals were up 5.1 percent for January to August.
“From a total of 2,828,261 visitors in that eight-month period, Jamaica earned US$1.98 billion or 8.3 percent more in gross foreign exchange earnings, than the US$1.83 billion earned last year, over the same period,” he told the conference.
He said that through business to business exchanges like JAPEX, “we are positioning the tourism industry to continuously generate higher growth rates in both visitor arrivals and earnings. We must ensure that we deliver on all aspects of our offerings”.
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, in his address to delegates and stakeholders at the opening of JAPEX, on September 24, noted that the tourism sector is growing by leaps and bounds, attracting levels of both local and foreign investments never seen before.
“We are experiencing record visitor arrivals and earnings as well as a vibrant investment climate,” Bartlett told at the Exchange. “In fact, three hotels will be having official openings, over the next two days, right here in Montego Bay – Zoëtry, Breathless and Jewel Grande.
The Minister said that, in addition, his Ministry will continue to roll out initiatives to diversify the tourism product, through the five Linkages Networks – Gastronomy, Health and Wellness, Sports and Entertainment, Knowledge, and Shopping – to attract more visitors to the island, as well as generate additional earnings.
“While encouraging sector growth, we are putting in place the infrastructure to leverage this powerful sector to improve the socio-economic conditions of our people, at all levels of the society, drive new growth in our communities and generate jobs,” he added.
Bartlett said the Tourism Linkages Network has been doing an excellent job of energising the process, noting that a great example is the Jamaica Suppliers Directory, which connects local manufacturers, suppliers and service providers with purchasing managers in the hotel and tourist industry.
“The directory is user-friendly, builds branding and recognition and, at the same time, gives our local businesses access to a wider audience and bigger revenues. In addition, it is helping to further the Linkages Network’s primary mandate to increase the consumption of local goods and services by the tourism sector,” he argued.
Bartlett further noted that to accomplish the growth imperative, “we must ensure that all aspects of the tourism product are right, and that we can truly deliver on what we promise when we market Jamaica”, emphasising that a commitment to service excellence is integral to the success of the industry and that Jamaica, through the ongoing Tourism Service Excellence Program (TSEP), will continue to encourage excellence from individuals and institutions that are an integral part of the tourism product.
“Our Tourism Service Excellence Awards (presentation) in March of this year was a great success, and nominations are now open for 2017. Our goal is to encourage every player in the tourism sector to deliver a positive and unforgettable service experience to all visitors by embracing the highest standards of service excellence,” he stated, adding that the Ministry and its partners will continue to position Jamaica as the world’s destination of choice, in terms of excellent customer service.
The 27th edition of JAPEX has attracted hundreds of overseas buyers and local suppliers, meeting to conduct business on the conference floor.
The annual event, staged by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association and the Jamaica Tourist Board, offers the ideal forum for leading suppliers of the country’s tourism product to meet with travel wholesalers and tour operators in a professionally organised business exchange.