With visitor arrivals for the first nine weeks of this year exceeding one million and Jamaica being the first Caribbean destination to achieve this result, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says the tourism industry has reached the peak of its growth. Earnings for the nine weeks have been put at US $800 million.
The latest arrival figures were disclosed by Minister Bartlett as he delivered the keynote address at the official opening of Montego Bay’s newest attraction, the Grand-A-View Restaurant and Event Place on the weekend.
He said the figures signaled “that the earnings from tourism can now penetrate the economy of Jamaica and is influencing all the consumption patterns within the economy.” Also, said Minister Bartlett, “the industry now is at the peak of its growth” but will face new targets “because we’re in a continuous state of growth.”
Lauding the proprietors of Grand-A-View, Carl and Dr Barbara Erskine for their investment, Minister Bartlett was pleased that they had done so in gastronomy, stating that Jamaica must leverage for great effect, its ability to combine something produced or manufactured here with the range of international cuisine it offers to the world.
“Food tourism is going to be the major driver for growth and the experiential tourism product in Jamaica, but it is also going to be the basis on which a larger number of ordinary Jamaicans are going to be involved in the value chain of tourism,” said Minister Bartlett.
In consideration of that forecast, he disclosed, “We’re spending, from the Tourism Linkages Network, over USD300, 000 in this new fiscal year and building out these kinds of attractions and activities for the ordinary Jamaican. We’re starting out by reimagining the Lilliput area where now we have close to 3,000 rooms and by the end of this year we would have broken ground for at least 2,000 rooms in the Rose Hall area.”
The Tourism Minister said that is going to mean a demand for Jamaican goods and services such as barbers and hair braiders and “we met with some backyard farmers in Lilliput recently because we’re going to help to plant vegetables like tomatoes, the fruits that are natural to the area like soursop and sweetsop, and make sure that those fruits are sold to the hotels across the road from where they live.” Minister Bartlett said this initiative would be replicated in Negril and St Ann “because this is a big area.”
He also said coffee was now being treated as an international product in tourism “that every visitor that comes to Jamaica as of this year on a cruise ship will get a cup of Jamaican coffee at the terminal when they arrive.”
According to Minister Bartlett discussions were also taking place with Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke on how to improve the fiscal arrangements that will allow “the kind of tax arrangements that will incentivize production and make more people want to invest in various areas of Jamaica.”
He singled out investment in food and restaurants, noting, “We’re looking at how to make it easier for them to bring higher cut pieces of meat and other items that are required to make us provide the higher level of culinary expressions that are deemed good for the growth of tourism in Jamaica.”
In consideration of what the Grand-A-View offers, Minister Bartlett said it was a solid investment to the growth and development of the city and portends that Montego Bay was returning to being the happening place for business and the entertainment centre for tourism in Jamaica.
The Grand-A-View is the only facility of its kind in Montego Bay, featuring an Observation Tower on the third floor that offers a 180-degree captivating view of the northern coast of the city. It also boasts an executive lounge, a conference room and an exquisitely laid out dining room.
Also welcoming the Grand-A-View as a fine addition to the Montego Bay landscape were Mayor Homer Davis and St James Custos, Bishop Conrad Pitkin; former minister of government, Dr Karl Blythe; Tourism Enhancement Fund Chairman, Hon Godfrey Dyer and Rev Frank Kellier, all of whom joined Dr Barbara Erskine in cutting the ribbon signifying the opening.