The entire board of the island’s tourism promotions agency resigned yesterday, leaving the country wide-eyed and O-mouthed even as Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett claimed the action was taken to give him a free hand in choosing new directors to move Jamaica’s tourism forward in light of the global financial crisis.
Last night, at a hastily called press conference at the tourism ministry in New Kingston, Bartlett dismissed claims that the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) directors resigned because they had a difficulty with a decision to also make the chairman, John Lynch, the new director of tourism.
That position became vacant after Basil Smith opted not to renew his contract.
Bartlett maintained that the members of the less than one-year-old board decided to resign so that he could reappoint a new team to meet the ever changing demands of tourism globally.
The decision, he said, was arrived at by the board members, without his influence, after he updated them on the just concluded World Travel Market in London and the crisis facing many tourism-dependent economies like Jamaica.
“I met with the board and outlined the overall situation and talked about the response we have to make and they offered to give me a free hand to reconfigure,” Bartlett said.
He said members of the sitting board acknowledged that, given the turbulence facing tourism worldwide, it cannot be business as usual and it was evident to them that different strengths were now needed to move Jamaica’s tourism forward.
He said he accepted the resignations and will be reappointing a new board within the next week.
In October last year when he announced the appointment of the board, Bartlett said: “I have thought long and hard before asking each member on this board to offer their service. Today, I say to the sector, this is the best mix.”
Last night, Lynch and Wayne Cummings, who is also president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), the only two members of the just resigned board at the news conference, denied that there were any dissensions within the board or that they were forced to resign.
“There has been absolutely no disagreement with anyone, especially the chairman… the issue at hand is that things have changed,” said Cummings.
He said in fairness they must give the minister the leeway to put in place a team that will support decisions going forward.
Asked whether he was poised to become the next director of tourism, Lynch said it would not be appropriate to comment on that since the committee had not yet made a decision on who would be chosen.
In the meantime, Bartlett said there are possibilities that existing members of the board could be reappointed as “every member on the board is eligible”.
The members of the Board were deputy chairman Earl Jarrett, general manager of Jamaica National Building Society; Smith, former director of tourism; Godfrey Dyer, tourism consultant and former president of the JHTA; Carolyn Hayle, head of hospitality and tourism at the University of the West Indies; Paul Pennicook, former senior vice-president of sales and marketing at Air Jamaica; Cummings; Josef Forstmayr, hotelier and former JHTA president; Lionel Reid, hotelier and former JHTA president; Zein Issa-Nakash, hotelier; Ralph Smith; hotelier; and Bert Wright, businessman.