Jamaica Tourism Minister Hon. Edmund Bartlett sent his congratulations to Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association on their 60th anniversary.
The minister‘s representative delivered congratulatory remarks at the anniversary gala dinner held on Saturday, October 29, 2022, at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay.
Here is what he said at the celebratory event:
The year 1961 was notable for many reasons. It was the year that Jamaica seceded from the Federation of the West Indies following a referendum; the Little Theatre, home of Jamaica’s vibrant performing arts culture, opened its doors; we welcomed a total of 293, 899 visitors to our inviting shores; and the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) was established.
This evening, as we celebrate JHTA’s 60th anniversary (notwithstanding the one-year pandemic-induced delay), we cannot overstate the JHTA’s monumental role in the successful development of Jamaica’s tourism industry. Sixty years is a remarkable milestone for any organization; however, sixty years of business success is a laudable triumph.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to address this distinguished audience as you celebrate your Diamond Anniversary. This evening, however, I am standing in the very large shoes of our Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett who very much wanted to be here but had to acquiesce to the demands of his office. Nevertheless, he sends his best wishes.
On behalf of the Minister, our Ministry and its public bodies, I take this opportunity to extend heartfelt congratulations to the membership of the JHTA on the achievement of this significant milestone. We are proud to have had you as an invaluable tourism partner over the decades, during both good and turbulent times.
They say that when tough times come, you know who your true friends really are. As we emerge scathed but more resilient on the other side of the two-year COVID-19 pandemic, we know for sure we have a strong and committed partner in the JHTA.
Our partnership took on a new dimension during the pandemic. The unceasing work and collaborative efforts as well as the fact that together we were able to create a smooth transition from the zero position at the outset of the pandemic to a bearable position during the crisis and now to a growth position that is putting us ahead of the curve and, arguably, ahead of the entire Caribbean in terms of the economic recovery, speaks to success in unity of purpose.
Together, we confronted our challenges, turning them into opportunities. We worked together to put in place proactive measures and guidelines – from our innovative Resilient Corridors to stringent health and safety protocols – that ensure a tourism product that is safe, attractive and economically viable for our workers, communities, visitors and tourism stakeholders.
It was a period when we met almost every day and we were in constant dialogue. This is something we have never seen in the industry. In the process we created many innovative steps that positioned Jamaica well in the international tourism industry – not only as a safe vacation destination but also as a thought leader in resilience and recovery in the tourism space.
So, what does this tell us?
Collaboration and strategic partnerships are fundamental to business success. Nowhere is that more relevant than in tourism, which is a vast ecosystem of dynamically interconnected businesses.
Tourism is a multi-dimensional activity, which touches many lives and interfaces with various sectors, such as agriculture, the creative and cultural industries, manufacturing, transportation, finance, electricity, water, construction and other services. I often describe tourism as a series of moving parts – individuals, businesses, organizations and places – that converge to create a seamless experience that visitors buy and destinations sell.
The JHTA has been a champion partner in making the recovery possible. This united front has allowed the sector to rebound much faster than initially anticipated. Jamaica quickly became one of the world’s fastest-recovering countries and the Caribbean’s fastest-growing tourism destination. I wish to thank in a special way Mr. Reader and his hard-working team for the important role they played in the recovery process.
Additionally, by extension, our unity of purpose has also helped to drive the recovery of the national economy, which is a very good thing because as I noted previously so many people and entities depend on tourism for their livelihoods.
This is underscored by the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s (PIOJ) April to June 2022 Quarterly Report, which indicates that tourism continues to drive Jamaica’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery. The economy grew by 5.7% during the quarter, compared with the same period in 2021, with the tourism and hospitality sector contributing substantially.
According to the PIOJ, the Real Value Added for Hotels & Restaurants grew by an estimated 55.4%, reflecting a sharp increase in visitor arrivals from all main source markets. In addition, length of stay is back to the 2019 levels of 7.9 nights while, more importantly, the average spend per visitor has increased from US$168 per night to US$182 per person per night. This is a clear indication of the resilience of our tourism sector.
Arrival figures from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) signal that the sector is proving this resilience as we surpass pre-pandemic performance. Despite the COVID-19 fallout, Jamaica has earned US$5.7 billion since reopening its borders in June 2020. The data also shows that the island welcomed over five million visitors over the same period.
Overall, 2022 is proving to be a record year for arrivals. Our numbers continue to grow, and October is also shaping up to be another record-breaking month. For the first three weeks of October 2019 visitor arrivals totalled 113,488. The number nosedived as a result of COVID-19 to 27,849 in 2020 and began to show recovery with 72,203 in 2021. I am pleased to disclose that preliminary figures for those first three weeks in October this year show visitor arrivals of 123,514, topping those for 2019 by some 10,026. I expect the number to be even more impressive when the cruise numbers are tallied.
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These figures underscore the unified commitment of all stakeholders to putting our best foot forward and innovating in the marketplace to come out better on the other side of two years of disruption.
While, due to the pandemic, we had updated our growth targets to achieve five million visitors, five billion dollars in earnings and five thousand new rooms by 2025, based on current performance, we are projected to meet these targets ahead of our timeline.
However, despite our recent successes, we must continue to deepen synergies to innovate and solve complex pandemic-related challenges that are still affecting the tourism sector, such as supply chain disruptions that are not only impacting goods and services but also human capital.
The new architecture for Jamaica’s tourism continues to be guided by our Blue Ocean Strategy, which is playing a leading role in revitalizing the sector.
It calls for the creation of business models that depart from traditional ones based on competition and standardization.
Instead, we have shifted our strategic focus to one of enhanced value creation through product differentiation and diversification. Specifically, we are opening up new markets and capturing uncontested market space instead of going down the well-trodden path and competing in saturated markets.
We are identifying and establishing innovative policies, programmes and standards that assure our visitors a safer, secure and seamless experience while building out a new tourism model based on a diverse portfolio of unique and authentic attractions and activities, which draw heavily on Jamaica’s natural and cultural assets.
At the same time, this strategic approach is helping to boost revenue, resilience, inclusiveness and product quality. It includes:
- Expanding markets and go-to-market channels
- Developing new tourism products
- Expanding our community tourism focus
- Maximizing linkages across all local industries
- Promoting resilience and sustainability, and
- Putting added emphasis on destination assurance
Other initiatives that are contributing to our new push for a more vibrant and inclusive industry include:
- Training and building the capacity of our people to respond to an ever-evolving industry. Already, through our human capital development arm, the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI), we have certified thousands of industry workers across the island and provided them with new opportunities.
- Providing technical and financial support for Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs), which contribute invaluably to the authenticity and totality of the visitor experience. Just last month, the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) launched the much-anticipated Tourism Innovation Incubator to help nurture new and start-up tourism enterprises that will provide innovative products, services and ideas to boost the competitiveness of our tourism sector.
- Creating an encouraging investment climate to help build out this new-look tourism product. Tourism investments have contributed to 20% of Jamaica’s total Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) over the last four years. Furthermore, new and existing investors are set to spend close to US$2 billion to add new rooms to Jamaica’s tourism product over the next five to ten years. This will result in the addition of 8,500 new rooms and more than 24,000 new part-time and full-time jobs, as well as at least 12,000 jobs for construction workers.
- Also, we will be undertaking major transformational projects in the sector, e.g., the Tourism Enhancement Fund’s (TEF) $1-billion project to develop Montego Bay’s ‘Hip Strip’ into an iconic attraction starting in April 2023.
These are just a few examples of how we plan to pivot for tourism dominance while boosting economic growth, improving livelihoods and creating jobs.
We are still in the embryonic stages of building out the Blue Ocean Strategy but we believe it will force us to push the boundaries of our tourism industry so we can offer our visitors unique experiences of immense value.
Simultaneously, it will ensure that inclusive recovery becomes a reality by ensuring our diligent tourism workers are equipped to seize the opportunities at all levels of the sector; incorporating our partners in the various segments of the industry that are drivers of the visitor experience and providing the opportunity for new players to enter the tourism arena along different areas of the supply chain, while ensuring profitability continues for our hoteliers.
To this extent, we can make tourism the driver of the nation’s economy in a real and more meaningful way on the basis of merit, equity and access.
In closing, I must thank Mr. Reader for the excellent job he has done over the last two years as JHTA President. He has been a firm leader who has used his platform to lobby effectively for his members as well as to help keep the industry afloat in one of the most challenging times in our history.
I also extend my heartiest congratulations to the incoming JHTA President Robin Russell. I am confident that with your experience, insight and commitment to innovation you will have a successful tenure.
As you embark on your new journey as leader of this noble organization, the Ministry of Tourism stands ready to assist you and your team at the JHTA in any way that we can. We look forward to continuing the excellent partnership between our two institutions as we work together to create a sector that provides real prospects for enduring and inclusive economic growth and development.
MEDIA CONTACT: Corporate Communications Division, Ministry of Tourism, 64 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5, Telephone: 920-4924, Fax: 920-4944 – OR – Kingsley Roberts, Senior Director, Corporate Communications, Ministry of Tourism, 64 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5, Tel: 920-4926-30, ext.: 5990, Cell: (876) 505-6118, Fax: 920-4944