Jamaica Minister of Tourism Hon. Edmund Bartlett has issued a charge to local agricultural suppliers to use the recently-released tourism demand study to help reduce the island’s import bill.
The Minister was speaking recently at a special Tourism Linkages Network meeting at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices, aimed at providing key players in the industry with concrete data which specifically lists the items demanded by the tourism industry, that can be produced locally.
The study which was designed to create a framework for effective planning and to identify demand for certain goods and services within the tourism sector, also highlighted that the annual leakage, due to imports, amounts to $65.4 billion in the manufacturing sector and between $1.6 billion and $5 billion in the agricultural sector.
In order to address the leakages in the industry, Minister Bartlett stated that it was vital to first acknowledge that the value of tourism to Jamaica is being negated by the country’s inability as an economy to absorb the full demand in the industry.
“We must develop the capacity to convert the demand of tourism. Agriculture, manufacturing and services are the three broad areas in which the input of tourism is expressed. If we are able to supply the needs within these categories locally, then the retention of that capital, which visitors bring to the destination, will be assured. If we can’t, it will go back if visitors do not spend or if they spend on goods that we have imported,” stated Minister Bartlett.
The Minister explained that the study provides a starting point for agricultural suppliers to find ways in which they can reduce the import bill for key items by first looking at their production patterns, reliability of the supply, quality of the products and the price points.
“Agriculture is a critical element on the supply side of tourism. In terms of estimated demand it is $19.4 billion. The numbers that are outlined in the study suggest that we are selling to the industry some $4.9 billion of the $19.4 billion. So there is a gap that we have to fill,” said Mr. Bartlett.
He also said the study indicates that Jamaica also suffers from seasonality, particularly for fruits between September and December. It was therefore suggested that the solution for this can be found in the restructuring of post-harvesting activities and more aggressive marketing.
The $8.6 million study was conducted by the Centre for Leadership and Governance (CLG) at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and funded by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF). The findings were officially released to the public on February 2, 2016 and can be accessed on the Ministry of Tourism’s website, www.mot.gov.jm.