With a record-breaking 4.31 million travelers visiting Jamaica in 2018, the island nation’s tourism industry is poised to boost its rate of growth by expanding investments in small- and medium-sized business enterprises (SMTEs), said Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, CD, MP.
Min. Bartlett spoke today at the “Second Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises,” which was co-presented by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism.
More than 80 percent of tourism is driven by small- and medium-sized enterprises in Jamaica.
“Increasing investment in national economies and its citizens will only result in having greater resources to provide an enhanced visitor experience,” said Min. Bartlett. “Here in Jamaica, it is through a broad range of strategies such as education, specialized training, and credit financing that is enabling us to professionalize Jamaica’s tourism industry, so more of our citizens can be on par with travel professionals around the world.”
More than 200 SMTE members convened at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, to participate in discussions led by an impressive roster of local and international speakers and panelists that included: Jamaica’s Minister of Industry Audley Shaw, CD, MP; Jaime Cabal, Deputy Secretary-General, UNWTO; Nestor Mendez, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States; and keynote remarks by Álvaro Uribe Vélez, the former President of Colombia.
“The small- and medium-business sector contributes most to Jamaica tourism, yet only 20 percent of SMTE revenue returns to their benefit,” added Min. Bartlett. “Today, we recharged the dialogue on how to rebalance that anomaly and to back good ideas with investment capital.” He said strategies are in place to allow SMTEs to understand their potential, thereby moving from “mom-and-pop” operators to established, reliable sources of sustainable and long-term income.
Recently, the Ministry of Tourism has directed nearly J$1Billion into the Export–Import Bank of the United States for lending at a rate of four-and-a-half percent to Jamaica’s SMTEs, which has generated an overwhelming response from local small business owners. “To date some J$950 million has been lent to more than 70 entities and they are also making repayments with interest. By April, J$132 million in interest would have been repaid,” Min. Bartlett said.
In addition, the Organisation of American States (OAS) committed a total of US$500,000 to build the resilience of SMTEs to natural disasters and disruptions to tourism. The project, which is being executed over two years, is funded by the United States Department of State and managed by the OAS Secretariat for Integral Development.