MONTEGO BAY, St James, Jamaica – Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett does not believe the changing tide in relations between the United States of America and Cuba threatens Jamaica’s tourism market. His comments come as US President Barack Obama makes his historic trip to Cuba.
With North America, in particular the US being Jamaica’s largest tourism market, Minister Bartlett has asserted, “the United States market is a big market, so the people who quarrel about Cuba, tell them this minister does not fear any destination anywhere at all because the markets that we are both competing in are huge and lucrative markets.”
The minister made his position known as he addressed Red Cap Porters at the Sangster International Airport on the weekend. Minister Bartlett said Jamaica’s share of the US market hovered at about two percent and even if Cuba got five percent there was still a large portion to draw from; “so why am I worrying about Cuba? I must go do my job… That’s what I have to say to all those who are skittish and nervous.”
However, he reiterated, the strategy being employed was one of developing partnerships with Cuba playing a role. “What I want to do is to develop synergies with partners, and Cuba is going to be a big partner because we are in something called the Northern Caribbean Space where tourism in the northern Caribbean is the largest block of tourists in the entire Caribbean area,” he stated.
He said the islands of the region accounted for 70 percent of tourists to the Caribbean, “there are therefore opportunities for joint activities and multi destination activities and we’re going to pursue that, so rather than fear them we’re going to join them and were going to explore this as we exploit the resources of the Northern Caribbean space.”
He told the Red Cap Porters that they were important partners and had a stake in selling the experience of “Destination Jamaica”. They were implored to learn other languages in order to communicate more effectively with non-English-speaking visitors.
President of the Montego Bay Airport Red Cap Porters Association, Levi Smith suggested that the membership be included on fam-trips being undertaken by the Jamaica Tourist Board to gain experience in dealing with foreigners and to market themselves as part of the product.
He said the association welcomed the plans outlined by Minister Bartlett for growth in tourism and the benefits to be derived by tourism workers to improve their economic and social status.