Just days after his recent appointment as Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett met with members of the executive body of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) on Thursday, March 10, at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices to discuss steps to further develop the tourism sector. This signaled the first of a series of meetings scheduled in the upcoming weeks with key tourism stakeholders and industry partners.
Mr. Bartlett, who previously served as Tourism Minister from 2007-2011, expressed pleasure at returning to the Ministry for a second stint. He also reassured the group that though he didn’t always shadow the portfolio during his period in opposition, he maintained linkages with key industry players across the globe.
“We have used the period to hone further our own skills and appreciation of the industry. We have also been able to get from other destinations, some of the innovations that have fostered growth and have sought to improve the transformative process that tourism has to create jobs and generally improve the well being of people,” said Minister Bartlett.
During the meeting, the Minister and executive members discussed ways to improve the sector by focusing on key areas including: the growth of the accommodation sector; the determination of the optimum room level that will create the earnings needed to impact the economy; solutions that will enable cost effectiveness needed to maintain the highest level of competitiveness in the industry; development of the legislative and regulatory framework needed to create the fiscal space for growth; and development of human capital within the industry.
“We have a huge responsibility because we are not just an industry but we are catalysts. We have the linkages to all the sectors that enable economic activities across the spectrum,” said Mr. Bartlett.
The Minister disclosed that he intends to build narrative that enables people to better appreciate the value of tourism and the contribution it is making. He outlined that “part of our problem is that globally we have not articulated our position sufficiently well. The governments of the world have not mainstreamed tourism sufficiently so that they can get the benefits that should accrue to the economy”.
He therefore declared that the Ministry is now charged with the responsibility to “create the fiscal space for growth in tourism and to ensure also that within the mix of all the policy options that we take, we should incentivize growth rather than to contract the development. We should also discuss the extent to which we collaborate with indigenous entrepreneurs to enable a stronger retention of the tourism dollar.”
In regards to the building on human capital, he hopes to have further discussions with the group to determine the best way to establish the hospitality and training programme outlined in the government’s manifesto as well as ensure that the workers with the industry have a sense of security.
“I am working with you to make sure that in keeping with the January 2017 implementation date there will be a pension programme in place to offer social security to the workers of the tourism industry. We also need to focus on working on housing solutions for tourism workers,” he said.
JHTA President Nicola Madden-Grieg expressed gratitude in meeting with the Minister, so quickly after he assumed office, to discuss key issues affecting the industry. In order to achieve the economic growth being proposed, she suggested among other things, that the country’s marketing approach be adjusted to put more focus on attractions to adapt to the growing change in visitor needs.