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May 25, 2018

Sustainable tourism for sustainable development in Jamaica: Plugging leakages by strengthening the linkages


May 8, 2018

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND INTRODUCTION

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this esteemed house to speak to the direction and developments of our nation’s foremost sector in driving job creation and prosperity – tourism.

THANK YOU

 God
 Wife and Family
 Prime Minister
 Ministry of Tourism (PS + team) and Agencies (Board and Staff)
 JHTA and other stakeholders
 Speaker

Mr. Speaker, I am cognisant of time limitations and will seek to, in concise yet precise details, outline the way forward for not only the development of our tourism sector as we know it, but how we will ensure its sustainable development while stemming leakages and enhancing linkages. Before I get into that though I will:

 Quickly outline the state of the global industry and current state of tourism affairs regionally and locally;
 Outline the philosophical backbone and direction of the Ministry and its Agencies as we holistically achieve our objectives;
 Give a summary of the raft of achievements emanating from our very targeted, people-focused and defined approach to the sustainable development of the sector, and;
 Highlight our programmes and initiatives under our overarching drive to build out linkages throughout the Jamaican economy, so that the benefits of tourism are spread farther and wider in a sustainable way so as to satisfy the best interests of the people of Jamaica.

STATE OF THE INDUSTRY

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

Mr. Speaker, despite global, regional and local disruptions such as climate change, pandemics, terrorism, crime and cybercrime, among many others, the tourism sector continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors and one of the leading contributors to global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, preliminary data compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), have indicated that international travel continued to perform strongly in 2017, further consolidating the tourism sector as a key enabler of economic development globally. According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable 7% in 2017, to reach a total of 1.3 billion visitors travelling around the globe. This strong momentum is expected to continue into 2018 at a rate of 4%-5%. This was the sector’s strongest performance in 7 years.

Mr. Speaker, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) states that travel and tourism’s direct, indirect and induced impact last year accounted for:

 US$8.3 trillion contribution to Global GDP (10.4%)
 US$882 billion investment(4.5% of total investment)

Beyond this strict economic contribution, Mr. Speaker, and perhaps most importantly, at the global level, according to the WTTC, in 2017, the industry accounted for 313 million jobs or 1 in every 10 job, and more than 30% of trade in services. The sector is thus positioned as a major contributor to sustainable livelihood and, by extension, national development.

The enormity of the tourism sector today is even recognized by Wall Street as global travel is now being recognized as an attractive investment area.

REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE

Mr. Speaker, the Caribbean is the most tourism dependent in the world. The World Travel and Tourism Council highlighted that the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was USD56.4bn (14.9% of GDP) in 2016. Last year, Mr. Speaker, Caribbean tourism reached another major milestone, surpassing 30 million stopover arrivals for the very first time. The region, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) also experienced a whopping US$37 billion in total visitor spending.

Mr. Speaker, tourism remains the single most important economic activity within the region and if we are to propel growth, it will require some cohesion among Caribbean countries.

LOCAL PERSPECTIVE

Now, Mr. Speaker, let us assess the situation as it is locally. I am pleased to announce that the sector is expanding at an unprecedented pace, and remains poised to outperform the benchmark target of five percent growth in five years that my ministry had set when I took office in 2016. For the second consecutive year, the growth of the tourism sector in Jamaica exceeded the projected 5% annual growth.

Last year, Mr. Speaker, we brought 4.3 million visitors to our shores. It was the first time in the country’s history that we welcomed more than 500,000 new visitors in a single calendar year, which completely outpaced, Mr. Speaker, the combined aggregate growth under the roughly 4 years of the previous administration.

Mr. Speaker, tourism arrivals in 2017 represented a 12.1% increase in arrivals over 2016. This figure comprised 2.35 million stopover arrivals and 1.95 million cruise passengers. Revenue flow grew from US$2.5billion in 2016 to a record revenue flow of approximately US$3 billion.

ENHANCED SECURITY MEASURES

Mr. Speaker, the most important concern for tourism globally, regionally and locally is safety, security and seamlessness. This, Mr. Speaker, speaks to destination assurance – a key responsibility of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo). The Caribbean has a reputation for being the safest warm weather destinations and we want to guard that jealously, which is why we must act proactively.

The Ministry of Tourism remains committed to assisting the security forces to ensure that our destination remains safe and secure. In fact, Mr. Speaker, through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), we have committed over J$1 billion to the Ministry of National Security to boost safety and security in Jamaica.

Since the operationalization of the enhanced security measures in St. James we had seen a dramatic drop in incidences of homicides. Now, Mr. Speaker, I will not deny that the implementation of enhanced security measures did in fact stir much concern locally and internationally; however, every well-thinking Jamaican and many of our partners overseas welcomed the initiative as a necessary step and they continue to support the security apparatus in their efforts to make Jamaica a safe place for all.

Thankfully, Mr. Speaker, we were quick off the mark in immediately engaging all relevant players in the market here and overseas.

I want to specially thank the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues for their all hands on deck support, including injecting needed resources, during this fragile period in the midst of our winter tourist season, a time when tourists from the north travel in droves. I also want to specially thank our tourism industry stakeholders for working closely with us.

2018 – 1st QUARTER FIGURES

Despite anxieties associated with the enhanced security measures, we can say so far, so good, Mr. Speaker. Following a record breaking 2017, Jamaica’s tourism numbers for the first quarter of the year have hit new records.Mr. Speaker, for the period January to March, total arrivals of 1,298,674 increased by 6.6% with 625,002 stopovers up by 6.8% and 673, 672 cruise passengers arrivals up by 6.5%.

This means, Mr. Speaker, over 80 thousand more visitors than the corresponding period last year or 6.6% in percentage terms.

Mr. Speaker, the month of March also recorded a whopping 11.3% increase in stopover arrivals over the same month last year. Of note also, Mr. Speaker, is that for the period, gross estimated Foreign Exchange Earnings stood at US$825.3million, representing an increase of 8.5%.

TOURISM AND THE ECONOMY

Mr. Speaker, the relationship between tourism and the resilience of the Jamaican economy has been well-established. The rapidly expanding tourism sector has maintained its position as one of the main contributors to job creation, investments and foreign revenues in the Jamaican economy over the last several decades. Expectedly, 2017 marked another exceptional year for tourism as the available data indicate that the total economic impact of the sector surpassed most other segments of the economy.

Mr. Speaker, estimated taxes from visitor arrivals for 2015 was J$29.5 billion. Due to the significant increase in visitor arrivals for 2017, revenue from visitor arrivals increased by 9.2% to J$33.2 billion. This represented an increase of 12.6%.

For the accommodations sector and tourist shops, Mr. Speaker, direct taxes for 2015 amounted to J$28.3 billion, which incorporates General Consumption Tax (GCT), Corporate Income Tax, Guest Accommodation Room Tax and Hotel Licence Duty. For the year 2017, Mr. Speaker, revenue collected from the accommodations sector amounted to J$29.0 billion. This Mr. Speaker, reflects an increase of 2.5%.

Revenue generated from the tourism sector as defined above was found as a component of total Recurrent Revenue for 2015and 2017. Mr. Speaker, in 2015, tourism’s contribution to government revenue was 12.8% (J$57.8 billion).
Mr. Speaker, for the year 2017, direct revenue generated from the sector amounted to J$62.2 billion, accounting for 12.1% of total Recurrent Revenue. What this means Mr. Speaker, is that the direct revenue generated from the tourism sector increased by 7.6% from 2015 to 2017.

Mr. Speaker, in 2015, export earnings for tourism increased to (US$2.4 billion), which represented 44.5% of the total export earnings by major sources. In 2017 export earnings from the tourism sector was significant, accounting for 79.7% (US$2.9 billion) of total export earnings by major sources. This is a jump of roughly 35%, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the tourism sector in April 2017, accounted for 8.9% of the labour force, employing 122,500 workers and generated indirect employment for another 250,000. As at January 2018, tourism employed 116,900 workers, which accounted for 8.8% of the labour force. Mr. Speaker, it must be highlighted that for the last three years tourism has accounted for approximately 9% of the labour force.

These figures once again underscore the well-known fact that tourism is vital to the fulfilment of the mandate of Vision 2030 – making Jamaica the place to live, work, raise families and do business. Mr. Speaker, our long-term goal is embodied in our 5X5X5 growth agenda, which is to attract 5 million tourists by 2021; generate US$5 billion in earnings; increase total direct jobs to 125,000 and add 15,000 rooms.

FIVE PILLARS OF GROWTH

Mr. Speaker, the record-breaking performance of the country’s tourism sector over the last several quarters reflects the success of our intensified tourism growth strategy, which revolves around 5 pillars-

 tapping into new markets
 developing new products
 accelerating investments
 building new partnerships and
 developing human capital

SOLVING THE SUPPLY PROBLEM – ADDRESSING LEAKAGE

Mr. Speaker, we have already started to witness the positive impact of our fortified growth strategy as evidenced by record investments; record arrivals; record tourism expenditures; more tourists coming from non-traditional regions; new products and new segments; and new public-private partnerships. We, however, cannot afford to become complacent and we intend to continue intensifying our efforts to ensure that the sector maximizes it contribution to local economic development and sustainable economic livelihoods.

To do this, we recognize that considerably more attention needs to be paid to the supply side of the tourism equation to ensure that the country is not missing out on potential income-generating opportunities for more ordinary Jamaicans.

Mr. Speaker, we indeed recognize that tourism has vast but largely untapped potential to generate wealth and prosperity for significantly more Jamaicans if the right architecture is developed, allowing the sector to meet more of the demands of visitors locally.

Mr. Speaker, global trends show that tourist destinations that do not promote high multipliers and levels of linkages will not produce substantial economic development and may even foster resentment of the industry amongst local residents. Mr. Speaker, revenue that is leaked makes no impact on the local economy; linkages between the tourism industry and the local economy are crucial because of the multiplier effect. The multiplier effect refers to how additional rounds of spending (such as indirect and induced spending) continue to impact the local economy after the money is initially spent.

Indeed, over 4.3 million visitors to our shores generates enormous economic opportunities in a wide range of areas- marketing, bookings, accommodations, transportation, tours and adventures, agriculture, food and beverages, manufacturing and retail, textile and clothing, equipment and hotel supplies, among others. However when these essential inputs cannot be supplied locally they are sourced from elsewhere and then the country loses out on valuable revenues. – This, Mr. Speaker, is what we call leakage, which remains the major obstacle to sustainable tourism growth in Jamaica.

LEAKAGE

Leakage results from the unwanted leaving of money as a result of taxes, wages, and profits paid outside of a country as well as imports. It prevents money from flowing back into the local economy and benefitting more ordinary Jamaicans.

Caribbean countries have one of the world’s highest rates of leakage (80%) with the main type of leakage being import leakage, which commonly occurs when tourists demand variants of equipment, food, beverages, supplies and other products that cannot be supplied by the host country and thus have to be imported. Income leakage in Jamaica is also of concern. A Tourism Demand Study in 2016 found that Jamaican hotels import about one-third of their food and fixtures, on which they spend around $70 billion.

Mr. Speaker, this is an unacceptable situation if we are serious about expanding the benefits of the sector to more ordinary Jamaicans. The ability of the tourism sector to be a catalyst of inclusive growth for all Jamaicans will significantly depend on its ability to plug leakages. Reducing leakages will only be achieved by building linkages between tourism and other sectors of the Jamaican economy.

STRENGTHENING LINKAGES

Mr. Speaker, through our network of agencies we have aggressively began to address leakage by paying closer attention to the demand side of the global tourism equation, to ensure that the country’s domestic sectors are better able to supply the products and services that are the necessary inputs of the visitor’s experience.

LINKAGES NETWORK

The Tourism Linkages Council, under the chairmanship of Adam Stewart, constituting main players in the supply side, has been meeting to strategize and build capacity of Small and Medium-Sized Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs). The Ministry of Tourism has been aggressively facilitating linkages through our Linkages Network, which oversees and implements a wide range of linkages strategies. The thrusts of our Linkages Network include: supporting product development, assisting with capacity building of SMTE’s, deepening public-private collaborations and building networks and connections between tourism and non-tourism players.

BILLION DOLLAR REVOLVING LOAN FACILITY FOR SMTEs

Mr. Speaker, you would recall in 2016, the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) collaborating with the National Export-Import Bank of Jamaica (EXIM Bank) on the development of a small and medium-sized tourism enterprises loan scheme. This programme, Mr. Speaker, allows business operators with tourism involvement, including bars, restaurants, small manufacturers, artisans and so on, to access between $5 million and $25 million to upgrade and improve their operations, at five per cent interest for five years.

We can report directly from the EXIM Bank that the revolving loan facility has been a tremendous success with strong take-up by players in the sector and it is expected that by the end of this year the J$1 billion dollars would have been fully disbursed.

Mr. Speaker, as part of our efforts to push, small and medium tourism enterprises and to strengthen efforts of increasing consumption of locally-produced goods and services to combat the high rate of leakages in the tourism industry, we commissioned the development of the Jamaica Suppliers Directory to not only improve the online presence of local manufacturers but to also provide a simple, effective marketing tool for them to connect with buyers from all across the islands.

Mr. Speaker, the Jamaica Suppliers Directory is a hyper-localized directory platform for product manufacturers and suppliers, which allows purchasing managers to have the capacity to search and locate manufactures of their choice based on their individual needs.

The interface is simple to use and is responsive among all devices, including phones, tablets, laptops and computers. It also allows registered users the ability to update details and information on their offerings, respond to queries and measure their ratings and additional information on their products. The platform centralizes the information of over 800 product suppliers from a number of member agencies associated with the Tourism Linkages Network and we have them visualized in different pinpoints on a map, which is categorized in three locations – Central, Eastern, and Western Jamaica.

Mr. Speaker, before the launch of the Directory, almost 78% of our suppliers and/or manufacturers did not have a web presence. Now, every single one has a web presence through the Tourism Linkages Network.

LINKAGES PERFORMANCE

Mr. Speaker, our Linkages Programme is being implemented through our five networks: gastronomy, health and wellness, sport and entertainment, shopping and knowledge. We have already rolled out initiatives related to these five
networks such as:
 The naming of Devon House as the country’s first gastronomical centre; which includes an expanded ice cream parlour, new steak house and pizzeria;
 The launching of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour;
 The recent staging of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival;
 Carnival in Jamaica; and
 Plans to develop mineral spas across the island.

Taste Jamaica Mobile App and Microsite

To fully digitally integrate the gastronomy experience, we launched, Mr. Speaker, the Taste Jamaica app and microsite, which hosts a number of features to allow users to access and interact with Jamaica’s culinary offerings. Mr. Speaker, what this digital experience offers is access from anywhere in the world to our food hot spots, culinary trails and food focused events.

Agri-Links Exchange initiative

Mr. Speaker, our Linkages Network is working towards bringing greater synergy between suppliers and buyers, which helps to reduce imports as more local products are used. The launch of the tourism Agri-Links Exchange initiative – or as we like to call it, ALEX, is an important example of innovation within the network. ALEX is an online platform created to facilitate the purchase and exchange of goods between farmers and buyers within the local hotel industry.

This is truly a ground breaking initiative, which is intended to strengthen the connections between tourism and the agricultural sector.

Speed Networking

I must also highlight, Mr. Speaker, our Speed Networking event which is designed to close the gap between these suppliers and buyers. Mr. Speaker, we have had success upon success with Speed Networking since its first staging in 2015 and it has become a calendar event, which stakeholders in tourism and related industries look forward to with much anticipation. This year we had 153 representatives from 91 supplier companies and 60 buyer representatives from 57 tourism entities participating in our Speed Networking event. Mr. Speaker, for 2016 it is estimated that the value of contracts signed stood at over J$181 million dollars.

Christmas in July

Mr. Speaker, corporate gifting is a multimillion dollar business which currently sees gifts being purchased predominantly overseas. To encourage purchase of more local items, our Christmas in July initiative brings several talented manufactures/suppliers directly in contact with buyers through the Christmas in July directory and a trade show. Mr. Speaker, a total of 114 manufacturers participated in last year’s tradeshow.

Spa Standards Sensitization Workshop

We have also tapped into the Health and Wellness Network, with the first of a series of spa standards sensitization workshops in partnership with the Bureau of Standards and the Ministry of Health to promote the adoption of the JS319 standards. Mr. Speaker, the aim is to increase international market readiness of spas and wellness facilities to meet the needs of this growing area. Mr. Speaker, the workshop had 150 spa owners/operators, wellness technicians and students in attendance.

Carnival in Jamaica

Mr. Speaker, Carnival in Jamaica is the initiative used as the umbrella brand for all carnival activities during the peak period of March 31 to April 8, 2018. Mr. Speaker, according to the figures released by the Jamaica Tourist Board, for the period of April 1 – 7, 2018, Kingston had over 9,000 visitors, which is a 22.8 per cent increase over 2017. Mr. Speaker, the multiplier effects is significant as the many tourists and Diaspora visitors resulted in solidly booked hotels, Airbnb and many other houses and apartments that had to be rented. Mr. Speaker, many taxis, restaurants, street vendors, bars, party equipment rental companies, venues and scores of other suppliers of goods and services have benefitted from the record turnouts. Mr. Speaker, money run…. This is what our Linkages push is all about.

Blue Mountain Coffee Festival

Yet another example of Linkages at work, Mr. Speaker, is the inaugural Blue Mountain Coffee Festival in Newcastle, St. Andrew, organised by our Ministry’s Gastronomy Network. Mr. Speaker, with approximately 1,500 participants, this festival is going to morph into an annual affair that will be a major pull for visitors across the world. Mr.Speaker, we in Jamaica seem to have locked ourselves into coffee export. But there are so many other applications and economic value that we can derive from the use of coffee in so many forms.

Anecdotally, Mr. Speaker, the strengthening of linkages is being noticed in our hotels in terms of the increasing number of goods and services being sourced locally. It is, I believe, not where we want it to be but it is a positive step. Mr. Speaker, the TEF will moving forward to begin quantitative data collection to provide a fulsome picture of what is being achieved. At the next budget presentation, Mr. Speaker, I will have hard data as we have commissioned a demand study and will commission an economic impact study.

Mr. Speaker, we can conclude that the Tourism Linkages Network is creating a true nexus between tourism and agriculture and bringing suppliers and buyers together.

UNWTO GLOBAL TOURISM CONFERENCE

Mr. Speaker, the tourism ministry continues to demonstrate its support for sustainable tourism in Jamaica. As some of you might know, the year 2017 was designated as the Year of Sustainable Tourism by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). It was also a historic year in terms of the global recognition of brand Jamaica.

In commemorating 2017 as the Year of Sustainable Tourism, The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) selected Jamaica to host its international tourism conference under the theme “Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism”.

The conference, the first of its kind in the region, was staged from November 27- 29, 2017 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre and was a resounding success.

Mr. Speaker, then Secretary-General of the UNWTO, Dr. Taleb Rifai, has commended Jamaica on the staging of a first-class conference, which he likened to a “second General Assembly”. More than 1,400 delegates from 60 countries were in attendance over the three days of the event, making it the biggest tourism conference in the history of the Caribbean. Discussions surrounded: public-private collaborations for tourism development and growth, key elements of successful investments in the tourism sector, tourism and the sustainable development goals (SGDs), international technical assistance and the need for donor-funded projects that balance scale, sustainability and inclusion.

Mr. Speaker, the value of hosting guests from over 60 countries, including world leaders, secretaries general, and the top leadership of some of the biggest businesses and international organisations of the world, was incredible. It required a lot of logistics, including high-level security arrangements, food and beverage, translation equipment, effective media set-up, and much more. The convention centre and all suppliers delivered, and we look forward to hosting more conferences at this level. It has put Jamaica on the map as a venue that can safely, securely and seamlessly execute global conferences.

This, Mr. Speaker, is the Knowledge Network of the Tourism Linkages Council in the Ministry of Tourism working. It also highlighted Mr. Speaker, that Jamaica has become the knowledge nexus and thought leader of the region. In fact, Mr. Speaker, Jamaica has been asked to present and provide input on global tourism issues and we have seen countries like Saudi Arabia and Africa using our model.

I am pleased to also announce, Mr. Speaker, that Jamaica will host the Caribbean Travel Marketplace next year. This, Mr. Speaker, is the Caribbean’s largest and most important marketing event which affords tourism suppliers the opportunity to meet face-to-face with wholesalers from around the world selling Caribbean vacation travel over the course of two days of business meetings. Mr. Speaker, Jamaica will also host a summit on SMTEs next year, and we have the support of former President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, who has agreed to attend.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to highlight a major outcome of the UNWTO Conference – the Montego Bay Declaration. Mr. Speaker, the 15 point Declaration will be used as a road map to strengthen public-private-partnerships and enhance donor funding and investor engagement, which will create the framework for more responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

GLOBAL RESILIENCE AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT CENTRE & OBSERVATORY

Most importantly, Mr. Speaker, the conference was used as an opportunity to discuss urgent threats to sustainability and resilience in the tourism sector of highly tourism-dependent small states like Jamaica.

While the tourism sector has traditionally been very resilient, the sector is also one of the most vulnerable to the aforementioned disruptions such as climate change, cybercrime/cyberterrorism, terrorism and pandemics. Disruptions within the sector have wider implications for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Ensuring the resilience of the sector is therefore critical to protecting and promoting the well-being of millions of citizens around the world.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the Global Resilience and Crisis Management Centre will be housed at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. It is being designed to help vulnerable states to recover quickly from natural disasters and is currently endorsed by World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation along with several overseas Universities.

Mr. Speaker, the ultimate goal of this Global Resilience Centre will be to assist destination preparedness, management and recovery from disruptions and/or crises that threaten economies and livelihoods globally with real time data and effective communication.

MULTI DESTINATION MARKETING ARRANGEMENTS

Mr. Speaker, to create deeper synergies and expand our products regionally, the concept of Multi Destination marketing was another major outcome of the UNWTO conference. Multi Destination marketing forms part of a greater plan to jointly market Jamaica to the international community. Mr. Speaker, these arrangements will have a major economic impact on the region.

Not only is it the first of its kind in the Caribbean, Mr. Speaker, but it is a symbiotic arrangement that will allow us to provide a market for close to 33 million people. It will also allow us to develop and exchange partnerships with large airlines and major tour operators.So far, Mr. Speaker, Jamaica has signed Multi Destination Memoranda of Understanding with Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

NEW ARCHITECTURE TO MEET TOURISM DEMANDS

Mr. Speaker, it is also critical that we put in place the infrastructure required to meet the changing demands of tourists who arrive on our shores and the changing global environment. As highlighted earlier, Mr. Speaker, trends in the industry show tourists have become more sophisticated and have moved beyond the ‘sun, sea and sand’ reason to travel and are compelled by what I refer to as their ‘passion points’.

Consequently, we have had to be more agile and innovative in how we manage the product. This has led to a number of changes in the various government agencies under the Ministry of Tourism.

Jamaica Tourist Board

Mr. Speaker, we must engage our evolving tourists before they get here, so as to keep Jamaica top of mind as the destination of choice. In this regard, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) has begun a process of re-engineering itself and its methods of marketing and promoting the Destination Jamaica, to meet the needs of the emerging tourism source markets globally.

To compete in this new global marketplace, the JTB’s number one strategy will be the development of a new, fully integrated website. This new data rich, social media integrated digital platform will revolve on a single axis that provides global access to the destination 24/7/365. This website, Mr. Speaker, will be integrated with google and provide us the opportunity to access platforms such as Airbnb.

This new website will host and promote all aspects of the destination and provide real time access and content to tour operators and travel agents globally to be more efficient in selling Jamaica. We will have embedded a Customer Relationship Management tool to real time manage the performance of the more than 50,000 registered travel agents who sell the destination every day, and we will be able to perform, manage and incentivize them remotely to maximize our room and airline capacity.

The return on investment on this move to smart tourism will be the ability to market the destination and manage the distribution of our content in a more precise and geo-targeted way, to extract more value from our advertising and promotions than ever before.

Mr. Speaker, the objective is to create efficiency and improve our capabilities in the digital marketing age. Mr. Speaker, this transformation from a manual to more digital marketing system will allow us to utilize tools of cyber marketing which Jamaica has never seen. We can now, Mr. Speaker, better utilize the scarce advertising dollar in a more targeted way.

Tourism Enhancement Fund

Mr. Speaker, we must also reposition and diversify our tourism products to make them more innovative and attractive to tourists. As of April 1 this year, the business model of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) was restructured to focus on developing innovative projects and enabling iconic attractions to be developed across the island. Within the area of projects, TEF will also continue its role in ensuring destination enhancement by way of building out the physical infrastructure.

TEF will be of particular interest to small and medium tourism enterprises, as it will provide entrepreneurs with information to modify their business models as needed, to adapt to new trends in the industry and by extension keep their businesses afloat. The new model will see TEF expanding to include new divisions such as the Tourism Linkages Network, the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI) and the Craft Development Institute.

Jamaica Vacations (JamVac)

Mr. Speaker, the inclusion of cruise to the portfolio of Jamaica Vacations (JamVac) has created better relationships with cruise lines to include shore experience personnel.

JamVac now has greater monitoring of the shore experience to ensure early response where there are challenges, working with agencies such as the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), TPDCo. and local stakeholders to remedy any challenges while ensuring that any fall out with the cruise lines are dispelled or at the very least minimized. Mr. Speaker, JamVac has been influential in ensuring that the perceived harassment at ports is minimized along with help of government and private stakeholders and was able to set up a dispatch system in Ocho Rios in 10 days that is having success.

CRUISE TOURISM

Mr. Speaker, this takes me to our cruise tourism, which is on a trajectory to making Jamaica the leading cruise tourism destination in the Caribbean. Cruise passenger visits were 11% higher than in 2016 and gross earnings from cruise passenger spend in 2017 was US$179 million, up 19% from US$150 million in 2016. We also created history last year when we hosted six of the largest cruise lines at the same time- Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas, which are all Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) vessels at Falmouth and the Norwegian Epic, the Norwegian Pearl and the Carnival Vista at Ocho Rios.

Mr. Speaker, we are anticipating strong growth in cruise tourism in 2018 owing to the wide range of cruise development initiatives that we have been pursuing with our partners and stakeholders over the past year.

The Port Authority of Jamaica, which manages the cruise ports, is overseeing the upgrade of a number of ports to enhance their capacity to receive large cruise ships including Reynolds Pier in Ocho Rios at a cost of US$22 million, which is being twinned with the rehabilitation of the Ocho Rios Fishing Village for US$4.5 million to transform it into a modern complex for food, entertainment and vending. The Port Authority will also be dredging the Falmouth port at a cost of US$3 million to allow two Oasis-class vessels to dock simultaneously.

Mr. Speaker, we are also committed to the rehabilitation of the whole town of Falmouth to enhance the readiness of its infrastructure and its residents to maximize the benefits of an expanded cruise tourism sector. To this end, we have earmarked a number of projects and upgrades in the town, to the tune of US$12.85 million.

Some of the projects include development of an Artisan Village at Hampden Wharf; Falmouth market renovation; Market Street landscaping; and improvement of the Falmouth Hospital.

Against this investment, Mr. Speaker, we will be very proactive in the cruise market and will be having discussions with our cruise partners to maximize calls at the Falmouth port. I must also mention, Mr. Speaker that the development of Port Royal will be a game changer in the growth of cruise tourism.

CRAFT DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE

Mr. Speaker, TEF is also pushing forward with its plan to establish a Craft Development Institute (CDI) at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (ENCVPA) in Kingston, in collaboration with TPDCo., under a Memorandum of Understanding between the entities. The CDI is among several initiatives being pursued by TEF with view to expand the craft industry by providing artisans with opportunities to participate in product enhancement and business development training programmes.

ARTISAN VILLAGES

This, Mr. Speaker, leads us to the development of Artisan Villages. You would recall, Mr. Speaker, during last year’s budget , I spoke about proposed plans to construct five Artisan Villages to reduce the volume of imported craft items that are being sold in the industry and to ensure that the booming cruise tourism industry benefits artisans and local craft merchandisers. The five artisan villages are to be constructed in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Falmouth, Port Antonio and Negril.

Mr. Speaker, we are happy to announce that the construction of the first artisan village at Hampden Wharf in Falmouth is slated for completion this year and will be developed in partnership with the Port Authority of Jamaica.

NEW MARKETS

Mr. Speaker, members would be aware of our very aggressive efforts to not only maintain and continue build on traditional markets like the USA, Canada and the UK from which we get the majority of our visitors but to properly build out the continental Europe and Latin American markets.

In that vein we have seen much success.

Mr. Speaker, Jamaica received in 2017 a record 325,804European tourists; approximately 31,000 more than the previous year. We are, Mr. Speaker, on track for growth. Already we have over the last year commenced new flights out of:

 Madrid, Spain
 Lisbon, Portugal
 Warsaw, Poland
 Cologne, Germany
And in coming months to the next year, we will welcome new flights from:
 Munich, Germany
 Moscow, Russia
 Zurich, Switzerland
 Paris, France
 Manchester, UK

Mr. Speaker, cost effective and seamless air connectivity is a major hindrance to attracting more tourists from Latin America to Jamaica. However, I am pleased to report that we have made significant inroads in this market from our recent trip to the region.

Just last week Mr. Speaker, we completed a very quick and extensive tour of key markets in South America, and I am pleased to highlight that:

 Panama-based Copa Airlines will in July increase to daily its service between Panama City, its main hub, and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
 LATAM Airlines Group, the largestairline in Latin America and headquartered in Santiago, Chile, is working towards commencing non-stop flights between their hub at Lima International Airport in Peru and Montego Bay, Jamaica, and
 South America’s second largest airline, Avianca, is set to begin non-stop flights between Jamaica and Colombia within 12 months.

Mr. Speaker, 32,000 Latin American tourists visited Jamaica last year representing a 16% increase over the previous year. Argentina, Chile,Brazil, Mexico and Colombia account for the significant number tourist arrivals from Latin America into Jamaica, with approximately 20,000 visitors from these nations.

Mr. Speaker, the increase in flights will allow us to double visitor arrivals from Latin America to 60,000 by 2021.

NEW INVESTMENTS

This, Mr. Speaker, leads me to new investments in our tourism product.We continued to position the tourism sector as the catalyst of job creation and economic expansion in order to meet our target of over 125,000 direct jobs and 15,000 new hotel rooms by 2021.

Over 1,200 rooms were added to the country’s hotel stock in 2017 representing hundreds of millions of US dollars in investment.

The new rooms added included:

 150 rooms at the Azul Beach Resort in Negril
 600 rooms at the Hideaway at Royalton and Royalton Negril Resort
 150 rooms at AMR’s Breathless Montego Bay
 12 rooms at the Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay
 322 rooms at the Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa

Mr. Speaker, the Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts will on June 1, become the newest member of the country’s growing fleet of luxury brands with the opening of its US$110 million hotel in Oyster Bay, Trelawny.Ground was broken for the 315-room property last March by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.With the opening, Excellence Group will join Royalton Resorts, owners of Royalton White Sands and Blue Waters, and Melia Hotels International, which operates the Melia Braco, as the three main internationally recognised brands to set up operations in Trelawny.

And, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that Prime Minister Andrew Holness will lead the ground breaking of the Karisma Hotels and Resorts expansive Hotel development project in St. Ann. The Sugar Cane Project at a projected cost of over US$900 million is expected to result in the development of a maximum of 10 hotels over 10 years, with a total of 5,000 rooms to provide at least 8,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs.

 Hardrock Hotel in Montego Bay will come on stream

 Playa Hotels and Resorts is to build 760 additional rooms and

 Mammee Bay Development is expected to come on stream

Mr. Speaker, we are also anticipating Kingston’s newest Hotel, the R Hotel, in coming months and another two new Kingston Hotels over the next 12 to 18 months, which will add just under 600 rooms to our capital city’s room stock.
Mr. Speaker, we will have over 300 rooms when the former Wyndham Hotel in New Kingston has completed refurbishing and the AC Marriott by Sandals will be coming on stream soon with an additional 220 rooms.

Mr. Speaker, we are also looking forward to the opening of the Spanish Court Hotel in Montego Bay adding 120 rooms and the continued overhaul of the Half Moon Resort which will include an additional 57 suites, both later this year.
Mr. Speaker, of course new investments cannot be solely focused on large developments.

NEW DESTINATIONS

Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Tourism remains committed to diversifying our products through new destinations. We anticipate that St. Thomas, areas north of Negril, and areas along the South Coast – will be repositioned as new destinations to respond to new profiles of the industry. Mr. Speaker, we are actively working with the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and other stakeholders to achieve this repositioning.

AIRBNB PARTNERSHIP

Mr. Speaker, as highlighted earlier, trends and models in tourism continue to evolve and we must keep abreast to make the necessary changes and partnerships. Mr. Speaker, as we continue to embolden efforts to ensure that the tourism dollar is spread far and wide, we are pleased so far with the partnership we have developed with one of those new models, Airbnb. Its community marketplace provides access to millions of unique accommodations from apartments and villas to castles and treehouses in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries.

Mr. Speaker, if you can recall, in 2016 we had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Airbnb which sought to establish hosting standards and best practices for homestay facilities – terms to safeguard the experiences of visitors and hosts alike. The MOU also provides greater scope for cooperation in areas of common interest, including marketing Jamaica as a tourist destination; promoting sporting events as well as our festivals and other cultural events; and fostering responsible home sharing.

Mr. Speaker, the Airbnb phenomenon has helped to revolutionize the lucrativeness of community tourism in Jamaica.
Mr. Speaker, Jamaicans are cashing in big time. Earnings surpassed more than J$1 billion as bookings increased to over 55,000 up from 36,000 in 2016. Communities leading the rapid growth of the segment include: Trench Town, former home of reggae icon Bob Marley; several other Corporate neighbourhoods; Portmore, St Catherine; Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth; Montego Bay, St. James; Ocho Rios, St. Ann; Portland and other areas along the north coast.

RENEWAL OF HUMAN CAPITAL

Mr. Speaker, we remain committed to the development of all tourism workers in Jamaica. Their invaluable and dedicated services are indispensable to sustaining our award-winning and globally-competitive tourism product. To that end, we have rolled out a number of initiatives to demonstrate our commitment to fulfilling this promise.

JAMAICA CENTRE OF TOURISM INNOVATION

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud to announce that we kept our promise to establish the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation (JCTI) in 2017. Just recently, over 150 persons graduated from the JCTI, which means they qualified to work anywhere in the world. Mr. Speaker, this is a significant turning point in professionalism in the industry and labour market reform. We are reviewing the labour market with the view to:

 Creating better workers
 Improving productivity through the creation of better workers; better
workers means better outcomes within the workspace.  Creating an environment of decent and fair work for all
Jamaica now has an assessment institution which offers certification programmes in tourism and hospitality. The JCTI is an assessment institution which provides

specialist education geared at improving competitiveness and employment opportunities in the tourism sector in areas such as hospitality, tourism and culinary arts, to supervisory and management jobs in tourism. The programme also includes a partnership with the American Culinary Federation (ACF).The new facility will certify more than 8,000 people over the next five years. At the international tourism conference in November we signed an MOU with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), which will provide their expertise in programme development to the JCTI.

TRAINING IN HIGH SCHOOLS

Mr. Speaker, starting this September, my ministry will be providing $100 million in a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, to launch the first certification programme for high school students to gain entry level qualification in tourism. The aim, Mr. Speaker, is to establish a curriculum in high schools for the certification of students in hospitality. It is an important part of the whole stage of development of the professional path in the human development strategy under my 5x5x5 growth agenda.

HOUSING

Mr. Speaker, we conducted a survey of housing needs for workers in the accommodations sector to initiate the development of a framework to support housing needs for tourism workers, which is a component of the Tourism Workers’ Welfare Programme. The results of the survey indicated that 85% of the workers in the accommodations sector did not own a home.

Mr. Speaker, the results also showed that 94% of the workers contribute to the NHT; however 88% of them have never received a benefit from the institution. The workers also indicated that they would not be able to afford a house of more than $2.5 million.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to safeguarding the welfare of our workers who are the core drivers of the industry, and it is through their hard work that the industry has boasted so many successes. We have started the process to improve the housing solutions for our workers.

Through discussions with Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ), a number of initiatives have been proposed which include developing parcels of lands identified for housing for tourism workers and providing basic infrastructure for informal settlements in which a number of tourism workers reside.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that currently a project is being discussed between TEF and HAJ to be implemented over the next five (5) years with funding of approximately $1 billion from TEF. This financial year, TEF will provide $170.7million to support for the first phase of implementation.

TOURISM WORKERS PENSION SCHEME

Mr. Speaker, the highly anticipated pension scheme for tourism workers is expected to become a reality by this year after successfully navigating very complex legal and regulatory waters.

Mr. Speaker, the setback in implementation arose when it was determined that the Financial Services Commission (FSC) would have oversight of the scheme. But the FSC had no experience in giving oversight to a pension scheme like this because this is a scheme that is driven by legislation, so we now had to get an amendment to the FSC Act in order to be able to have them do that.

Mr. Speaker, while the amendment was being done, the draft legislation was sent to the Chief Parliamentary Council (CPC), so we are fast-tracking to make sure that by June of this year we will have our pension plan properly installed and our workers will have that final loop of security that we have provided.

Mr. Speaker, the scheme will see to it that each worker in the sector gets a pension of at least J$200,000.
TEF has dedicated $1 billion to the scheme over the first four years. This, Mr. Speaker, will guarantee that each beneficiary, regardless of age, would be getting a minimum of J$200,000 per year irrespective of when you join the scheme. We have also started sensitization sessions island wide to get feedback from tourism workers and also explain how the scheme will work. Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate to everybody that this pension scheme is going to be a compulsory contributor scheme.

SPRUCE UP

Mr. Speaker, the mainstreaming of tourism, the communication of it and impact of tourism in communities across Jamaica is vital to a wider appreciation of how inclusive growth and equity is achieved through tourism.

Mr. Speaker, ‘Spruce Up’ speaks to the broader arrangement to involve communities and to enable the building out of capacities to produce more creative goods but most importantly to create a harmony between tourism and communities. It’s against this background that $1billion dollars has been earmarked from this year’s budget for ‘Spruce Up’ activities including the All Island Maintenance Programme undertaken by NSWMA, community development programmes driven by Members of Parliament and a series of communication activities island wide.

CLOSING

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that tourism is a main driver of economic growth and development for Jamaica and this is why we have established measurable and attainable goals that are underpinned by my 5x5x5 growth agenda.

Mr. Speaker, to ensure we achieve this growth agenda we have established the pillars of growth that are driven by the Tourism Linkages Network. Mr. Speaker, based on our projections it seems we may well surpass our goals by 2020:

 Already we have welcomed 4.3million and the target is 5 million
 Already we have earned approximately 3billion and the target is 5billion
 Already we have employed 116,000 tourism workers and the target is 125,000
 Already we are on track to adding 15,000 new rooms and
 The growth of the tourism sector in Jamaica exceeded the projected 5% annual growth.

Mr. Speaker, it has long been established that adaptation is the key to survival. That is what we are doing here, Mr. Speaker, adapting to the changing local, regional and global environment. But not only to survive but to strive. And my presentation here today is a clear indication that we are striving. The world respects ‘Tourism Jamaica’. The world looks to Jamaica for tourism solutions, models and products. And this is evidenced by the many partnerships, intellectual engagements and recognition ‘Tourism Jamaica’ has received in the last two years.

Mr. Speaker, we have indicated the global trends in relation to how new models are emerging such as mergers, acquisitions and consolidation to create greater efficiencies and to make price points more attractive and to adapt so we can strive.

However, Investment, Mr. Speaker is predicated on the access to capital and the banking and financial sectors in Jamaica have to step up to the plate now in response to what the global partners are doing and provide a window of opportunity for investment in Tourism both on the demand and supply side.

Mr. Speaker, we will plug the leakages because that is how Tourism will transform this society from poverty to prosperity.

God bless Jamaica Land We Love!

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