Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Unveils Future Tourism Plans to Parliament

Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's minister of tourism, speaks at the recent Jamaica Annual Product Exchange (JAPEX) in Montego Bay. // Photo by Joe Pike

INGSTON, Jamaica – Travel Agent was in attendance when Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's minister of tourism, unveiled his tourism master plan to the Parliament of Jamaica. 

Bartlett says the Jamaica Tourist Board's (JTB) main goals during his tenure will be to secure five million visitors by 2021. By that timeline, the JTB also intends to generate $5 billion in tourism earnings, increase the total direct jobs to 125,000 and add 15,000 new hotel rooms to the country’s inventory.

Bartlett says this will be done through the JTB’s “Five Pillars of Tourism Growth,” which include tapping into new markets, developing new products, promoting investment, building new partnerships and developing human capital.


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Underscoring these five pillars of growth, Bartlett says, are five networks, incorporating several key sectors, that will better integrate tourism with the wider society and thereby better spread the benefits to all Jamaicans. These five networks are gastronomy, sports and entertainment, health and wellness, shopping and knowledge.

“Together, Mr. Speaker that renewed architecture of pillars and networks will be enveloped by the need to strengthen and expand linkages with our local agriculture, manufacturing and the service sector and importantly, encourage us to aggressively push multi-destination tourism as a response to the new global tourism realities, including the gradual rise of Cuba,” says Bartlett. 

Bartlett noted that 1.2 billion people traverse the globe and spend $1.3 trillion annually.

“The growing tourism industry represents the most important form of economic activity in the Caribbean today with earnings in excess of $27 billion, providing jobs for one out of every five employed persons and attracting just over 30 million visitors annually,” said Bartlett. 

Bartlett told Parliament that performance figures for 2015 indicate that Jamaica recorded 3.6 million stopover and cruise visitors combined and revenues of $2.5 billion and grew by 2.1 percent for stopover arrivals. 

For the winter period January to April, Jamaica recorded a total of 773,458 stopover visitors and 745,220 cruise arrivals amounting to 1,518,678 visitors overall, Bartlett says. This represents a 7.6 percent increase over the same period for 2015 when Jamaica welcomed 756,463 stopover visitors and 654,564 cruise passengers totaling 1,411, 027.

“As we look ahead, Mr. Speaker, this year we have been successful in increasing airlift to Jamaica and have secured adequate seats to ensure a good winter and a successful summer,” says Bartlett. “We would have had almost three million seats out of our main source markets for both summer and winter, representing an increase over last year. “

“However, Mr. Speaker, with value added amounting to less that five percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and jobs amounting to less than 10 percent of the island’s workforce, one sees readily that Jamaica’s tourism sector is underperforming in the realm of its potential to provide significant economic wellbeing to the country,” continued Bartlett.

Shovel-Ready Initiative 

Bartlett also introduced the JTB’s new "Shovel-Ready Initiative." The program, says Bartlett, is preparing a number of sites by obtaining tacit development approvals; conducting capacity studies; assessing appropriate land utilization; and installing preliminary infrastructure.

And in its post-promotion phase, after an investor has been identified, assistance will be provided with land acquisition, concept design, planning and approvals, environmental permits, and building approvals, Bartlett says. 

“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the largest single development of hotels in Jamaican history has been effectively placed under the Shovel-Ready Initiative,” Bartlett says. “Karisma Hotels and Resorts has signed the relevant documents to move forward with their planned $1 billion mega-hotel project development in St. Ann that will in coming years add 5,000 new rooms, representing several different resorts, to Jamaica's tourism sector and provide at least 8,000 direct jobs.” 

New Markets

Bartlett told Parliament that it is estimated that globally the middle class who have the disposable income to travel will double over the next 20 years. This provides an amazing opportunity for Jamaica to attract visitors from burgeoning markets in areas such as South America, India, China and Africa.

“Now, Mr. Speaker, before even delving into the need to drive new markets from which Jamaica is to receive more visitors, I have started to lead an effort to better tap into markets that we have long had,” Bartlett says. “These include the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Western Europe.”

Bartlett says that upon returning as minister in March of this year, he became “acutely aware” that the Canadian market suffered a decline of 6.8 percent last year and a further 17 percent this year.

“I have mandated the JTB to present an action plan that will see to increased traffic from Canada,” says Bartlett. “Mr. Speaker, when combined, our visitor arrivals from the U.S. and Canadian markets are a little over 1.7 million; I am confident we can attract in excess of two million.“

In Asia, Bartlett says the JTB is focusing its attention on China, South Korea and Japan. Decades ago, Jamaica received upwards of 20,000 Japanese visitors per annum but has since declined to roughly 2,000 per annum, due in part to a long economic slowdown in Japan and other factors.

“However, with the world’s fourth largest economy and a population of over 127 million, including over 17 million people who travel to areas such as the Caribbean every year, this is a market that we are moving to re-engage,” Bartlett says. “We have opened discussions with Japanese tour and airline companies in an effort to bring more Japanese visitors here.”

Multi-destination Tourism 

Bartlett says the Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during his recent trip to Cuba, signed a ground-breaking agreement that will see Jamaica partnering with Cuba on tourism under a multi-destination tourism framework. 

“Mr. Speaker, multi-destination tourism, which is the marketing of a variety of experiences and locations under one umbrella, is an excellent architecture for Caribbean tourism, offering a value proposition that is irresistible,” he says. “This new architecture requires harmonization and convergences not only of marketing and distribution channels but aviation and immigration.” 

Bartlett told Parliament that the JTB is now witnessing an evolution in relations between Cuba and the United States, which is changing the face of tourism and travel in that country. 

“These changes, Mr. Speaker, will impact our tourism sector in Jamaica. However, we believe they present many opportunities and should not be viewed as a death knell of our tourism industry,” Bartlett says. “On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, we have absolutely nothing to fear as Cuba is now our strategic partner. The more traffic that comes into the region is the greater prospect it is for the region to establish itself as a strong tourism destination that will build partnerships.”

Cruise Marketing

Cruise marketing, says Bartlett, has now been added to the portfolio of the Ministry of Tourism as part of a strategic move to further boost cruise arrivals.  

“I am pleased to announce that the JTB will be undertaking an aggressive cruise marketing initiative, which will entail intensified efforts to market the destination directly to cruise customers and marketing agents, as well as promoting local attractions and also to drive cruise conversion,” Bartlett says. “Mr. Speaker, we are exploring the building out of new ports of call — including Downtown, Kingston.”

Additionally, Bartlett announced that TUI AG has a new cruise ship that will be home-porting in Montego Bay. This brings to four the number of vessels which will be home-porting in Jamaica. 

Artisan Villages 

Bartlett told Parliament that the JTB is aggressively pushing ahead with plans to construct artisan villages in resort areas across the island.

“Mr. Speaker, the first facility will be built in Ocho Rios, with others to be established in Montego Bay, Falmouth, Port Antonio and Negril over the next five years,” says Bartlett. 

Bartlett says the artisan villages will be “one stop shops” for authentic Jamaican food, music, heritage and craft. 

“Mr. Speaker, the facilities will provide an avenue for Jamaican artists and craftsmen to expose and express their creativity by producing unique indigenous items, thus limiting the volume of imported craft items that are being sold in the industry,” he says. “Mr. Speaker, I am really embarrassed by the number of goods in our craft markets which are not made in Jamaica. We just cannot continue like this.”

Sports and Entertainment Tourism Network

Bartlett contends that sports and entertainment tourism is yet another area with tremendous potential. Jamaica is a natural for an enhanced entertainment tourism product, says Bartlett. 

“Mr. Speaker, in the aftermath of the golden exploits of the nation’s sprinters at the Olympic Games at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012 and subsequent World Championships, the country’s global status as a track and field powerhouse has become legendary and the country continues to gain significant international media attention especially through the growing celebrity status of superstar athlete Usain Bolt,” says Bartlett. “Mr. Speaker, entertainment and sports have tremendous potential to fundamentally augment our tourism product, so that thousands of Jamaicans can benefit.” 

Karisma Hotels & Resorts Signs Deal for 5,000 New Rooms in Jamaica

Edmund Bartlett (front/middle), Jamaica's minister of tourism, looks on as Ruben Becerra (front/right) of Karisma Hotels & Resorts inks a deal to bring 5,000 new rooms to Jamaica. // Photo by Joe Pike

Travel Agent was on hand last week for a monumental signing between Karisma Hotels & Resorts and the JTB.

The deal was officially signed by Bartlett and Ruben Becerra, vice president of corporate affairs and business development for Premiere Worldwide Marketing, the exclusive worldwide sales and marketing representative for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, at the historic Devon House

It calls for 10 new Karisma Hotels & Resorts properties representing 5,000 new rooms in Jamaica. All of the rooms will be ready within the next 10 years, with the first scheduled to open around the summer of 2018, Becerra told Travel Agent.

Dubbed "Sugarcane," the resort represents an investment of more than $100 million, Rafael Feliz, Jr., corporate brand manager for Premier Worldwide Marketing, told Travel Agent last year. 

Sugarcane will be located in the parish of St. Ann and is about 40 minutes from the Montego Bay airport. It is also 10 minutes from the famous Dunn's River Falls in Ocho RiosMandy Chomat, vice president of sales and marketing for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, told us in December that it will be the only area in the Caribbean with such a concentration of luxury hotels.

Travel Agent was told by several Karisma Hotels & Resorts officials that there has been no official discussion on whether the company's new Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts brand will be included in the resort complex.

Visit www.visitjamaica.com and keep visiting www.travelagencentral.com for all your latest Caribbean travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike.