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With investment in room stock surging ahead of set targets, Minister of Tourism Hon Edmund Bartlett is turning attention to finding ways of retaining more of the tourist dollar in Jamaica.’
“What we want now is capacity building. We want investment in supplying the inputs of tourism; more agriculture, more manufacturing and more experiences with investment in entertainment, in the arts, gastronomy and culture,” said Minister Bartlett Sunday (July 9) at a press briefing at Sangster International Airport to welcome Evelop Airlines out of Madrid, Spain. “That’s the kind of investment I’m looking for from now on because we have enough takers for the 20,000 additional rooms that we want,” he added.
He was speaking against the background of Evelop adding some 8,000 seats to airlift out of Madrid to Montego Bay for the summer. A special guest on board Sunday’s flight with 328 passengers and crew was Spain’s Secretary of State for International Cooperation for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Fernando García Casas, who was welcomed by a party of officials headed by Minister Bartlett and including Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Josep Maria Bosch.
Spanish investment now accounts for some 10,000 hotel rooms and counting. Also, by the last quarter of this year, ground should be broken in Duncans, Trelawny, for a 750-room development by H10 Hotels out of Barcelona. About that time too, ground will be broken for 100 rooms at Rose Hall, Montego Bay. Minister Bartlett said this was in addition to the 750 rooms being built in Falmouth by Excellence Resorts.
He stressed, however, “We don’t want to be just building more and more rooms. We want to be building the capacity of the people of Jamaica to start to convert that wealth that comes here on the plane and in the ship into dollars in their pockets.”
In looking to Spain for some guidance, Minister Bartlett said he had discussed with the Secretary of State and the Ambassador the fact that tourism was responsible for the fast turnaround of Spain’s economy after the recession; defying the belief by many that because of its tourism-based economy the country would not rebound as the last thing people would do is travel. However, this belief proved to be wrong as travel was stepped up.
Minister Bartlett said this underlined the fact that tourism was not as fragile as it was made out to be but that “it represents a very sound, sustainable way of driving growth in an economy.” With the Spanish economy having bounced back, the tourist traffic had begun to move again “so we are in a position where we can leverage that to bring a direct flight to Jamaica,” said Minister Bartlett.
The Evelop rotation goes up to October but the tourism minister is optimistic that it will set the stage for scheduled flights to come.
Ambassador Bosch said the decision by Secretary of State Fernando Casas to start his visit to Jamaica in Montego Bay “is very important and marks the importance that we give as the Spanish government to tourism and on the Spanish investment in the hotel industry in Jamaica.”
He said while Spain had other interests in Jamaica, tourism was the basis on which a closer relationship would be built between the two countries.
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