JA eyes radical growth in tourism using ‘5 pillars’

Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s minister of tourism with Chef Andre Fowles and Paul Pennycook, director of tourism.
Jamaica Tourist Board

Jamaica has positioned itself to grow its economy using a “five-pillar” formula guaranteed to boost returns from tourism.

Eager to follow the lead of the Dominican Republic — the fastest growing economy — Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett predicted a surge next year in the island’s most profitable industry.

On his first official visit to New York City since tasked last month with the responsibility of shoring up the sector, the highest tourism ambassador expressed optimism that his nation could yield twice the current two and a half percent figures already impressive and favorable to the island’s economy.

“Jamaica is the most exciting destination on earth,” Bartlett said “despite the fact we have issues – like everybody else – 42 percent of all visitors return.”

Here on a three-day mission to convince key stakeholders of his vision of rapidly growing his economy, the returning champion of the island’s tourism industry addressed media, government officials and nationals saying he was pleased to reunite with everyone including tour operators, friends and stake holders.

Without referencing the reemergence of his Jamaica Labour Party to governance in February, the minister described his visit as his “reincarnation” in New York.

He first served in the same position under the Bruce Golding administration from 2007 to 2011when the prime minister resigned but continued in the same capacity for another year with successor Andrew Holness leading his party and government.

“It is great to be at home again!” Bartlett exclaimed.

Bartlett explained the 7.3 percent hike in tourism its Spanish neighbor experienced last year was strategic and can be replicated if Jamaica implements five pillars he proposed.

He said the nation is poised to record a whopping five percent by next year.

Prior to the select gathering, he met with executives at the headquarters of Jet Blue Airlines to endear their cooperation to his vision. A first step to executing “five pillars for growth” the meeting complied with a mission to renew a commitment with the carrier to continue servicing commuters to the island and most importantly to embrace a partner while sustaining a valued friendship.

A leading transporter of tourists to Kingston and Montego Bay since the national Air Jamaica disbanded, Jet Blue accounts for the most tourist arrivals and departures to the island.

Ranked first in terms of airline quality, JetBlue reportedly was among six airlines that improved standings in performance last year. The winner after research evaluated the top 13 airlines in numerous categories of passenger service Jet Blue soared past a dozen competitors to emerge the best in on-time performance and also registered the least denials to passengers boarding their aircrafts.

Although United, Southwest, Delta, ExpressJet and SkyWest made improvements last year, when it comes to baggage handling and customer complaints, the sky-colored brand again took first prize for resolving issues.

Bartlett capitalized on the good news recently released by the aviation industry’s raters and in addressing a diverse group announced the five pillars he will employ to grow tourism in Jamaica and also “enable the average Jamaican on the island to feel the impact of tourism.”

He cited boosting arrivals to the island, seeking new markets, exploitation of the gastronomy sector, embrace of partners with a passion and also improving outreach to special markets.

Accompanied by Paul Pennycook, director of tourism, the minister unveiled his plan to accomplish the ambitious task.

Listening in on the proposals were influential advocates for the island including: Courtenay Rattray, Jamaica’s ambassador to the United Nations, Brooklyn Assemblyman Nick Perry, George Patsalos, President of the Jamaican American Chamber of Commerce, Devon Harris, former Olympic bobsledder, Alicia Ashley, super bantamweight boxing champion, chefs Adam Schop, and Andre Fowles, Kenton Senior, JTB’s business development manager, and what seemed like a preponderance of fashion consultants.

Also on his itinerary were meetings with other strategic tourism partners including tour operators with whom he wanted to discuss his plans to drive new markets and forge new partnership.

“We have to look at the existing markets that we have in the United States, Canada and Europe, and we have to drive those to higher levels. The outputs of these markets have to be significantly more, simply because they have the capacity to deliver more for us,” the minister said.

Ready to adapt a successful Latin American formula, Bartlett also explained that Mexico has successfully made gains from tourism by integrating entrepreneurism.

Maximizing use of agriculture and other available assets “we must build up entrepreneurial capacity,” he said.

The minister said he intends to emulate the Mexican formula and strengthen relations between the two countries.

Next month, the eighth Meeting of the Mexico-Jamaica Binational Commission convenes in Mexico City. There a comprehensive cooperation program for 2016-2017 will be signed.

Reportedly a Spanish Language training program and a number of different partnership projects will be considered in the two-year program.

That this year, marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and Mexico bodes well for new and better partnerships.

“But the USA is our bread-basket,” accounting for “75 percent of all our visitors,” the tourism spokesman added.

Jamaica wants more from American tourists.

In addition, Jamaica buoyed by Bartlett’s passion plan to grow arrivals from Europe.

And if those regions seem more than enough to tackle, Bartlett’s growth proposals extends to new markets.

More than previously, tourists will savor the many culinary delights unique to the gastronomy sector. Cued by the presence of two award-winning chefs, the tourism minister boasted the repute of the Blue Mountain coffee, jerk chicken and a long list of appetizing brands unique to the island.

Of the special markets targeted, he cited diabetics and special needs travelers as passion projects to embrace.

Along with new investments and inviting partnerships, the minister said “connectivity with partners will take the message global.”

Although his island’s finance minister will soon explain recent findings released by the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) the good news is that remittances for the 2015 calendar year increased.

Report from the central bank is that total remittances amounted to $2.23 billion. The increased amount is $69.0 million or 3.2 per cent more than the $2.16 billion in 2014.

According to the BOJ, the main source of inflows was attributed to the USA and amounted to $138.3 million.

Canada contributed the second highest to the Jamaican economy with $15 million.

Other sources were the United Kingdom with $9.9 million, China with $10.3 million and another $53 million represented combined figures from ‘other’ sources.

From all indications, Jamaica’s new government is off to a running start.

And with five pillars to strive, their future with tourism seems boundless.

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