Allow me to start by extending my heartfelt appreciation to Bishop Ruel Robinson and the congregation of the Montego Bay New Testament Church of God for allowing the Ministry of Tourism, its public bodies and tourism partners to join you today as we mark the start of Tourism Awareness Week 2023 with this service of thanksgiving.
Our Jamaica Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, is passionate about the importance of Tourism Awareness Week; however, duty calls and he is travelling internationally on official business. It is, therefore, my great pleasure and honor to present this message on his behalf this morning.
God’s word says: “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success” (Proverbs 3:6 – Living Bible Translation). And so, today we come with a spirit of gratitude before the Lord to ask for His continued blessing over our tourism industry, which is so important to the nation’s economy and provides a livelihood for many thousands of Jamaicans. We commit this special week into God’s hands and seek His wisdom, blessings and guidance over our activities.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) celebrates World Tourism Day annually on September 27 to foster awareness globally of the significance of tourism and its social, political and financial impact, as well as its cultural worth and value. With this in mind, each year, a specific theme is chosen to highlight a particular aspect of the tourism industry.
In Jamaica, we use this theme to guide our annual activities for Tourism Awareness Week (TAW). For 2023 it is “Tourism and Green Investments,” which seeks to highlight the need to focus on investing in people, planet and prosperity.
The theme is right on point as it recognizes the urgent need for responsible tourism practices that prioritize the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. As stewards of God’s beautiful Earth, it is our moral responsibility to safeguard its natural, economic and social resources for future generations.
As mentioned, our activities for Tourism Awareness Week, which runs from September 24-30, will reflect this timely theme. These include:
– Daily advertorials highlighting initiatives of the Ministry of Tourism and its public bodies that speak to the TAW theme
– A Thanksgiving Church Service
– Tree Planting and handing over exercises at Tourism Action Club (TAC) schools in six resort areas
– A Speaker Series at Tourism Action Club (TAC) schools across Jamaica
– A Youth Forum (on World Tourism Day)
– A Visionary Symposium & Workshop
– A Tourism Stakeholder Engagement Activity
The COVID-19 pandemic presented us with the unprecedented opportunity to rethink tourism for the future and to maximize its impact by rebuilding it around a more equitable, sustainable and resilient tourism development model.
The good thing is that Jamaica had a head start as the fundamental pillars of our tourism growth strategy have always centered around:
– Strengthening linkages with other sectors of the economy;
– Increasing the benefits derived from tourism by residents and communities;
– Promoting broader participation by all Jamaicans through training and certification; and
– Ensuring the safety, security and sustainability of the natural and built environments.
The tourism sector has distinguished itself as the key engine of growth that is fueling Jamaica’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
It is the largest generator of foreign exchange, a major contributor to the GDP and employment, and has been among the country’s fastest-growing industries for several decades.
We have been seeing record tourism growth. Last year, we welcomed 3.3 million visitors and generated US$3.7 billion in earnings. More importantly, recent Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) figures indicate that between January and August of this year, we welcomed some 2.77 million visitors and earned US$2.93 billion in revenue.
If this record growth continues, which we expect it to do, we are on track to meet our projections of 3.8 million visitors and foreign exchange earnings of US$4.1 billion by year end.
In our quest for further growth, however, we should not lose sight of the importance of sustainable and responsible tourism practices that can help protect our environment and enrich our local communities.
Investment is no longer resigned to the blocks and steel of infrastructure. Investing in human capital, technology and innovation, entrepreneurship as well as the environment are equally important for the sustainable growth of travel and tourism.
The Bible places great emphasis on the value of people and their well-being. It teaches us to treat others with respect and compassion. As we observe Tourism Awareness Week, it is important to remember that tourism is not just about the destination but also about the people that visitors encounter along the way – hotel workers, craft vendors, entertainers, workers at attractions and transportation providers – who are such an integral part of the tourism product.
Investing in people is one of the fundamental pillars of our tourism growth strategy. To this end, the Ministry of Tourism is empowering the Jamaican people through education and skills development, so they can fully participate in the tourism industry and reap its many benefits. By providing training and certification programs through the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI), a division of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), we are creating a workforce that is knowledgeable, skilled and equipped to deliver world-class service.
The Earth is a precious gift from God and as stewards of creation, we must care for the environment and minimize our ecological footprint. For this reason, investing in our planet is another key element of our growth strategy. The Ministry of Tourism and its public bodies are committed to minimizing the impact of tourism on the environment by promoting sustainable practices. Through initiatives such as disaster risk management; multi-hazard and contingency planning; waste management; as well as our environmental awareness and stewardship efforts, we seek to preserve our natural resources for future generations to enjoy.
Lastly, investing in prosperity means leveraging tourism as a catalyst for economic growth and positive change. God’s Word teaches us about the importance of justice, fairness and the equitable distribution of resources. When tourism is managed ethically and responsibly, it can bring prosperity to communities, helping to alleviate poverty and create a better quality of life for all.
By strengthening the sustainable linkages between tourism and other economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing, providing technical and financial support for Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs), fostering partnerships with local communities and tourism initiatives, and incentivizing idea-stage businesses we can create more opportunities for entrepreneurship, encourage innovation and spread the benefits of the tourism sector.
As we observe Tourism Awareness Week, let us remember that each one of us has a role to play in promoting a more sustainable tourism sector. Whether we are travelers, tourism stakeholders, industry workers or policymakers, we have the power to make a difference. It is my hope that we will all be inspired to invest in people, to care for the planet and to promote prosperity through more responsible tourism practices.
SEEN IN IMAGE: Senior representatives of the Ministry of Tourism and its public bodies as well as tourism partners share lens time following the Thanksgiving Church Service held on Sunday, September 24, at the Montego Bay New Testament Church of God to mark the start of Tourism Awareness Week (TAW) 2023. Pictured are (L-R, front row): Executive Director, Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), Dr. Carey Wallace; Regional Director, Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), Odette Dyer; Host Pastor, Montego Bay New Testament Church of God, Bishop Ruel Robinson; Junior Minister of Tourism (2023/24), Deja Bremmer; Chief Technical Director, Ministry of Tourism, David Dobson and Basil Samuels, representing the General Manager of the Montego Bay Convention Centre. Sharing in the moment are (L-R, second row) Montego Bay Chapter Chair – Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Nadine Spence; Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Richard Vernon and Executive Director of Jamaica Vacations Ltd. (JamVac), Joy Roberts. The week is being observed from September 24 – 30 under the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) theme for World Tourism Day (September 27) – “Tourism and Green Investments,” which highlights the need to focus on investing in people, planet and prosperity.