Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Our strongest asset is our people, Bartlett tells Caribbean Travel Marketplace

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2024 | 12:13 AMPaul H. Williams - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Sandals International’s Adam Stewart (left) listens as Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett makes a point during the ‘Travel Forum’ held last Monday during the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Caribbean Travel Marketplace held at the Montego Bay Conference Centre in St James.
From left: Trudy Dixon, Christopher Burke, Fiona Fennell, Director of Tourism Donovan White and Victoria Harper, some of the members of the Jamaica Tourist Board, a destination sponsor of the just-concluded Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Caribbean Travel Marketplace held at the Montego Bay Conference Centre in St James.

The audience, which included tourism stakeholders and media practitioners from all over the world, listened in rapt attention as Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, talked about the state of tourism in Jamaica.

This was during the Jamaica press conference on the second day of the 42nd staging of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Caribbean Travel Marketplace inside the Montego Bay Conference in St James last Tuesday.

In his wide-ranging presentation, one of the factors Bartlett focused on was the contribution of the people to tourism and what the Government is doing to make sure that they are well-trained and appreciated.

“In Jamaica, we believe our strongest asset to be our people and that’s why we believe strongly in investing in increased opportunities for them both in and outside the direct sphere of our tourism sector,” Bartlett said. “For example, we continue to build a sustainable and resilient future by linking micro and small farmers directly with our buyers within the tourist industry to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, with many farmers across Jamaica supplying, directly or indirectly, our tourist industry with tons of fruits, vegetables and meat.”

Also, Bartlett stated that the Government has been upskilling and certifying thousands of tourism workers and high-school students through free programmes offered by the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation, to which substantial resources have been committed, and its local and international partners; providing a secure retirement income for tourism workers through Jamaica’s groundbreaking Tourism Workers Pension Scheme; and providing tourism workers with adequate and affordable housing, including a new programme for partnerships being forged with hotel investors to build more than 3,000 units for hotel workers.

Through the Tourism Innovation Incubator, new and start-up enterprises have been facilitated, likewise valuable marketing opportunities for small and medium tourism enterprises though annual Tourism Linkages Network events, such as Christmas in July and Speed Networking, which provide a platform for hundreds of local producers and entrepreneurs to engage with the hospitality sector and corporate Jamaica.

The Government has been giving marketing, technical and logistical support to events that spread the benefits of tourism far and wide, including Rebel Salute, Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica Rum Festival, Mochafest, Dream Weekend and Carnival in Jamaica, which bring thousands of visitors and opportunities for people at the micro and small enterprise levels of our economy.

The country’s local artisans are also a part of the picture, and the Falmouth Artisan Village in Trelawny showcases Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage and artisanal talents on an international stage.

To that, Bartlett said, “This project holds significant heritage and historical value, presenting an opportunity to transform Falmouth into a vibrant tourism, cultural and lifestyle centre. By showcasing the diverse talents of our artisans, the village is poised to attract visitors from around the world, offering them a unique and immersive glimpse into our cultural identity and traditions.”

On the subject of tourism resilience, Bartlett said the COVID-19 pandemic “has taught us that we must be proactive in anticipating, preparing for, and responding to emerging risks”, and that “we must also build resilience against them”.

He told the gathering, “To achieve this, Jamaica pioneered the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre in 2018. This centre assists tourist destinations worldwide in preparing for managing and recovering from crises that threaten economies and livelihoods linked to the tourism sector. Currently, the entity, which has been rebranded as the Global Tourism Resilient Centre, has offices in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Mediterranean, and affiliates in more than 42 countries.

As it relates to the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation, the educational arm of the Ministry of Tourism, Bartlett said that, from April 2023 to March 2024, 3,379 candidates have successfully attained certification, representing a 91-per-cent success rate.

“As I have always said, when tourism wins, we all win. It means more jobs for Jamaicans, more opportunities for local entrepreneurs, an increase in the consumption of local goods and services, and a greater retention of the tourism dollar. And while our Government invests in the Jamaican people, we are in turn happy to report the steadfast confidence of those entities investing in our island and setting us up for our remarkable growth in the years ahead.”