Jamaica Tourism Minister, Hon Edmund Bartlett is urging banks to invest more in the sector’s value chain by establishing portfolios geared towards Tourism. This Minister Bartlett highlighted, will provide more access to funding to build capacity among smaller players in the sector and stimulate more economic growth.
“Last year, 1.4Billion people travelled the globe and spent US1.6Trillion. In that same year, the value of tourism to global GDP was eleven percent (11%). In the Caribbean, 1 in 5 jobs are tourism based and foreign exchange generated by tourism in the region represents more than 50% of the total foreign exchange generated which includes minerals and extractive industries.
Despite this growth we recognize that tourism was never organized or structured as an industry and a driver of the economy. It just mushroomed and has grown exponentially while make-shift arrangements were made to facilitate it,” said Minister Bartlett.
Minister Bartlett was speaking at a breakfast meeting organized by Executives of First Global Bank with several key tourism stakeholders from Montego Bay on Friday March 1, 2019.
“As tourism continues its growth, things are changing and we must respond appropriately to meet the needs of this mega industry starting with a labour market architecture. That is why I have initiated the Human Capital Development Strategy to train and certify all the workers through the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation to build a professional cadre of hospitality practitioners who can now be classified and salaried in relation to qualifications and competences,” Minister Bartlett highlighted.
Minister Bartlett also spoke about the need for a more structured approach to investing in tourism, “Tourism has now morphed into public funding where Wall Street is now a big player which means the ownership structure of the industry is changing globally and the requirements are changing.
In fact, the impact of Wall Street is changing the production and consumption patterns in the industry as we are now moving towards the commodification of tourism where price and value will play a more important role in a destination’s competitiveness. Because tourism remains a people centred activity, service will be the point of differentiation and so training remains a critical area in restructuring the industry to boost our competitive edge.”
In outlining investment opportunities in the sector, Minister Bartlett also added that, “When we look at what drives investment in tourism, we see that a key potential area to invest in is the reasons people travel. People travel to fulfil their passions such as food, shopping and entertainment and we must build out experiences around these passion points.
A major area is food as data shows that eighty-eight percent (88%) of the world travels for food. So we must invest in food experiences of all types and then then you must also invest in the basis of getting the food, that means investing in agriculture and agro processing applications.”
Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica shows that tourism’s contribution to the country’s economic growth is continuing its upward trajectory. In 2017, Tourism’s contribution to the country’s GDP was 9%, up from 8.4% in 2016. This represents a 7% growth which is a little over six times the annualized GDP growth. This means tourism is actually growing six times the rate of the growth of GDP.
Last year over 4.31 million visitors arrived in Jamaica; 2.4 million via airports and a further 1.8 million by cruise. These visitors generated approximately USD3.3Billion in earnings, an 8.6% increase over 2017.