Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has identified sustainability of the national economy as key to his vision for tourism in the immediate future. As a step in that direction, the Ministry of Tourism has embarked on the creation of a tourism strategy for Jamaica in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and stakeholders from a wide cross-section of industries and government agencies.
The first in a series of strategy development workshops being staged in resort destinations was held on Friday (June 2) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James. Mr. Bartlett related that his vision was “to make tourism inclusive and the driver of the economy of Jamaica, but most importantly, to make it the centre of community enrichment and human development.”
He stated that a key component of achieving this goal was to build the capacity against the demand that tourism brings and to strengthen the ability of Jamaicans to supply the services and goods needed. “It calls for a shared commitment from each one of us in this room today,” he urged. “Let us seize this opportunity to work together; unifying our vision and efforts to secure the future of our beloved country and build a legacy we can proudly pass on to future generations,”
Minister Bartlett expressed confidence that “With the right strategy and plan in place, we can achieve all these objectives and more. I urge you all to join hands and work towards creating a comprehensive Tourism Strategy and Action Plan for Jamaica.” The collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and the IDB has the support of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and involves several specialized firms and consultants in the development of a set of in-depth diagnostics to inform the future Jamaica Tourism Strategy.
Meanwhile, citing that tourism was critical in the economic and social development of the country, the IDB’s Chief of Operations for Jamaica, Mr. Lorenzo Escondeur, said that although the industry had made a remarkable recovery from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, “tourism has not yet achieved its full transformational potential, and with the challenges that exist including environmental degradation, climate change impact, new disruptive technologies, and a rapid change in demand patterns,” it was necessary to reconsider tourism policies and investments, and the role of the public sector and multilateral organizations in the sector's development.
He stated that human activity and climate change threatened most of the country's biodiversity, “and if we do not take prompt action, some endemic animal and vegetation species might be lost forever, and Jamaica would lose its competitive edge for potential visitors.” There was therefore a need for increased focus on nature preservation to permit the development of new tourism products and expand the tourism economic footprint beyond current major destinations.
Mr. Escondeur said working in close collaboration with the Jamaican government, the private sector, and civil society in such a strategic sector as tourism was crucial for implementing the Bank's mission of improving people's lives, and tourism was critical in the economic and social development of Jamaica. Pre-pandemic, the travel and tourism contribution to Jamaica's Gross Domestic Product reached over 30% with the sector being about one-third of the total economy. Also, the tourism sector was directly or indirectly linked to around 30% of jobs and nearly 60% of total exports were driven by international visitor spending.
It was also necessary to build climate resilience by moving forward with tourism land-use planning by destination and developing a comprehensive and integrated coastal management framework to boost the sector's competitiveness and sustainability. He indicated that the Inter-American Development Bank “would continue supporting the Jamaican government to design and implement an evidence-based strategy that will guide all public and private sector stakeholders into a new future.”