Through the Ministry of Tourism, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), hosted a two-day workshop for parish judges at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The workshop aimed at informing them of the impact of tourism on the national economy and how the issue of harassment can derail the industry.
Parish Court judges have been made more aware of the critical role they can play in building confidence for the safety and security of visitors to the island.
Emphasizing that visitors pay for an experience when they come here and that their presence positively impact “a series of moving parts,” Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett said, “We have to protect them because it impacts so many people and so many of us can disrupt the seamlessness of this experience.”
He told the parish judges, “All of us have to become a part of the custody of this product.”
The Tourism Minister underscored the link between tourism and other sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing in the value chain, and said “the mission therefore is for us to build our capacity to produce those things that services the export so as to retain the dollar.”
Notwithstanding the importance of what is being offered, Minister Bartlett said the quality of the experience of the visitor was more about “the warmth and the hospitality and the feeling of safety, security and seamlessness and 60 percent of the value of the experience of the visitor is about that.”
It was important for all Jamaicans to make visitors feel comfortable and safe, he underscored while acknowledging that infractions against them were very low, “cultural differences can impact negatively on us if we aren’t au fait with how the people feel.” He cited that Jamaicans being a ‘touchy’ people, exuded a lot of hugging and warmth but that for many people, can be a huge turn off.
Minister Bartlett said, TPDCo was seeking to help in a cultural realignment to make those who sell their wares to visitors realize that badgering as a marketing strategy is not acceptable to everybody and there was a need “to engage more subtle marketing practices.”
He told the parish judges that “the visitor is not going to be terribly unhappy because of the cultural practices; what he’s going to be terribly unhappy about, is if he’s offended and he’s annoyed, and he’s even abused in the process, there seems to be no recourse. He feels that it falls on deaf ears when it becomes plain as day.”
Moreover, he stressed, even when action was taken, “They feel that the result of the action is way below acceptable standards.”
Minister Bartlett said everyone needed to see themselves as custodians of tourism and not just those directly involved in the sector, noting there was a need “for the country to better understand because there are people saying that tourism contributes little to the economy.”
Debunking that line of thinking, Minister Bartlett pointed out that last year the country recorded a near 2 percent growth and “tourism was the main performer and the highest contributor to the growth that we experienced.”
He said the sector now employed 117,000 workers directly, representing close to 10 percent of total national employment. Employment in the sector rose by 11,000 last year.
Also, last year, with a record-breaking 4.3 million visitors giving a 12.1 percent increase in visitor arrivals and US$.3 billion in earnings, there was a 6 percent increase by the sector to GDP, “and that was the largest of all sectors.”