December 15th, marks a significant day for the Tourism Industry…it is the official start of the Winter Tourist Season 2008/2009.
KINGSTON, Jamaica – As a start to the Winter Tourist Season 2008/2009 Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, The Hon. Edmund Bartlett, M.P. delivered his message on, “Enhancing partnerships in Tourism”.
My fellow Jamaicans: As you are all aware, the challenges we’re presently experiencing as a result of the global economic downturn, requires that those of us responsible for the health and wellness of our Tourism industry, work evermore tirelessly to ensure the stability and sustainability of our share of the worldwide tourism market.
As our leading foreign exchange earner, tourism impacts all sectors of our society. Tourism is our lifeblood. It is not something we can put aside and come back to when the dark clouds pass over. We must all pull together with deep resolve to protect this vital industry while we wait for the return of a sunny global economic climate.
Jamaica’s position in the world economy and the potential threats we face make this year’s theme for Tourism Awareness Week “Enhancing Partnerships in Tourism” especially significant. We must all commit to smarter, closer, dedicated partnerships striving to mitigate the potential threats to our tourism industry and to even achieve a small level of growth.
Yes, we remain cautiously optimistic that a measure of growth is possibility. This is not a pie in the sky wish, but based on solid market intelligence. The data is still showing that travel and tourism continues to show positive trends.
Though we acknowledge that long-hual traffic is likely to be greatly affected, interestingly Jamaica is likely to benefit from this, as we take advantage of the fact that we are a short-haul from the United States of which remains our largest outbound travel market and our largest market.
Some of the positives trends include:
Our airline partners, have either re-committed existing airlift or added seat capacity and new routes to support this winter season. Air Jamaica, who has long been a major partner in transporting visitors to our country, will receive support from other carriers with whom we’ve negotiated agreements that will bring the extra passenger traffic we’re expecting during the upcoming winter tourist season.
Additional airlift arrangements with American Airlines for the 2008/2009 Winter Tourist Season, is expected to reap significant benefits for the tourism sector as it will provide access to several US gateways in a number of lucrative feeder markets.
We’ve also established airlift arrangements with major tour operators in Canada, which will see two weekly non-stop flights from Vancouver to Montego Bay starting December 19.
Our cruise line partners continue to offer increases in itineraries that call on our ports. Between January and September this year, approximately 900,000 cruise ship passengers came through our ports and we’re expecting those numbers to grow significantly in the coming year with the completion of new and expanded facilities.
Only recently, an agreement was signed between Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and the Port Authority of Jamaica for the construction of a new cruise ship pier in Falmouth which, on completion, will berth the largest cruise vessel ever built, the “Oasis of the Seas”. This new, class of cruise liner is capable of carrying 5,000 passengers, as well as 2,000 crew.
Our hotel sector continues to invest in improvements to make our product more competitive and continue to make significant new investments.
In addition, our government continues to make the necessary infrastructural improvements to make our lives and the quality of our guests’ experiences better.
Our entertainment and attractions sectors continue to develop new and exciting world-class products. We have more attractions in Jamaica than exist in the total English-speaking the Caribbean combined.
Additionally, we have launched the Tourism Service Excellence Programme which seeks to promote and raise the standards of the tourism industry by recognizing high performance standards in the service levels attained by both individuals and organizations in the industry.
We are upgrading the facilities at a number of craft markets and the Spruce Up Jamaica programme continues to clean and beautify resort areas.
In support of the industry, the Prime Minister has responded quickly and has announced a raft of initiatives to stimulate the productive sector. These should go a far way toward helping the sector survive this difficult period.
But it can’t stop there. In order to maintain our position of leadership among the world’s top tourism destinations, we must pull together across all sectors to partner and stand strong and tall to weather the storm. The fact is that the impact of the global economy will redefine the tourism industry in Jamaica and the Caribbean. In this regard critical and strategic repositioning must be done in the marketing, product development and operational management of the industry. New business models must emerge to drive greater efficiencies in operations and visitor experience even as we market smarter and try to stay on the cutting edge of technology.
The new business models which the industry must adopt will mean adjustments in industry practices and possible realignment in accommodations, distribution and attractions. In this vein we must be prepared for some level of fall-out in the industry as the less efficient businesses give way to the more efficient ones.
But the range of services demanded of a strong and vibrant industry, offers new opportunities for retrofitting and retraining to tap into the long and lucrative tourism value chain.
Government action to support the industry can only go so far as the industry is willing to re-invent itself and respond to the new global architecture that will emerge from this economic shift. We have created the infrastructure and provide a level playing field for all stakeholders – large and small – alike. We have embarked on an ambitious marketing and advertising campaign. Our airlift security is the best in t many years and our resorts have been upgraded significantly.
We can do this…but only if we work together. We can do this… but only if put aside our differences; We can do this… if we remember that it is a joint partnership; We can do this…if we respect the contributions of all of Jamaica’s partners…our farmers, taxi operators, hotel workers, craft traders, tour guides, recreation and attractions providers, food and beverage, education, healthcare workers, entertainment, and travel services providers…all of us in the public and private sectors understanding that our partnership is only as strong as our weakest link; and understanding that we can’t just be good, we must be great at what we do.
My friends, we can do this…if we remember that as Jamaicans we are an extraordinary nation of people that have produced so many of the world’s “only”, the world’s “first”, the world’s “best!”
If we resolve to stay focused and strengthen our partnerships across all lines with the goal of excellence, we will not only mitigate deterioration of our market share during this global crisis, but we will maintain our position amongst the world’s tourism leaders and even grow in the face of what will cause others, less strong, to falter.
LET US PULL TOGETHER AS PARTNERS and work toward the success of this great INDUSTRY…TOURISM.
WE CAN DO THIS! YES WE CAN…..
Hon. Edmund Bartlett, M.P.
Minister of Tourism