A new centre for tourism innovation, the growth of new visitor markets and a global conference tackling climate change and other issues will mark a big year for Jamaica, according to the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism.
The minister was joined by members of the Jamaica Tourist Board’s Canadian office for a media dinner ahead of this year’s JAPEX trade show, taking place in Montego Bay from Sept. 24 to 26. Minister Bartlett provided attendees with an overview of new developments for the destination, centred around a five-point plan including new products, markets, investments, partnerships and the renewal of Jamaica’s human capital.
This October will see the launch of a new tourism innovation centre in the country, which will provide members of Jamaica’s tourism and hospitality industries with increased access to certification, enhancing the destination’s competitiveness and allowing it to better adapt to a changing marketplace, the minister explained.
“We need to be able to respond to the changing dynamics of the marketplace and changing demographics,” the minister said, “and we can’t do that without developing our people.”
Growth will also come in form of drawing new markets to Jamaica, particularly China and India with an eye toward Central and South America as well, while growing the existing “bread baskets” of the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Minister Bartlett said; while Canadian arrivals were previously in decline, they grew eight per cent over last year and are expected to surpass 400,000 annual visits in 2017, putting the Canadian JTB office well on its way to achieving its goal of 500,000 annual arrivals by 2020.
“Canada has become the growth centre for Jamaica,” Minister Bartlett said. “In terms of straight growth, no market has grown as fast as Canada did over the last 12 months.” To accommodate new growth, the minister said that Jamaica is aiming to significantly increase room stock from 28,000 to 45,000 over five years, along with growing the number of tourist attractions the island has to offer guests.
While Jamaica was spared from this year’s hurricane season which devastated many Caribbean nations - including St. Maarten, Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda – Minister Bartlett, taking a moment of silence for the victims, said that the effects of climate change and are a region-wide concern and will now be part of the discussion at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) global conference in Montego Bay in late November. The conference will bring together many key stakeholders, Minister Bartlett said, including the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), discussing matters including sustainable tourism development and public-private partnerships within the tourism industry.
“This is a moment for Jamaica like no one can imagine,” said the minister.
PAX will be in attendance at JAPEX 2017 and with the show only a few days away, PAX spoke to Minister Bartlett about what to expect from this year's edition.
"It will be an exciting show this year," he said. "We expect it to be one of the biggest. We'll be speaking about the new products of course but more than anything we want to make our partners appreciate the diversity of the Jamaican experience."