Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Hotels even import ackee, states new demand study

Published:Friday | February 5, 2016 | 2:00 AMSteven Jackson
A pod of ackee hangs from a tree.

Tourists are served imported ackee which arguably represents the starkest instance of the need for increased linkages between the tourism sector and local producers.

The annual expenditure on ackee - Jamaica's national fruit - served in hotels reaches an estimated $54.46 million annually with $10.89 million leaked due to importation, according to data from the Tourism Demand Study, a project of the Ministry of Tourism & Entertainment.

The figure for ackee represents just one of a series of data in the report dated October 2015 but just released this week to the public. The study found that the annual business leakage to imports amount to $65.4 billion in the manufacturing sector and between $1.6 billion and $5 billion in the agricultural sector. Jamaica earns about US$2 billion ($240 billion) per year from tourism.

The researchers argue that the greatest opportunities for local manufacturers to fill these imports are for alcoholic beverages, books, brochures and magazines, bed frames and headboards, chairs, pillows, sanitisers, standing lamps, toothpaste and towels. While opportunities for local farmers are for apples, cantaloupes, grapes, iceberg lettuce, Irish potatoes, red jumbo onions, rice and sweet corn.

"The potential of the tourism sector to drive growth in agriculture and manufacturing is unquestionably substantial. The study established that the demand for goods and services in the tourism sector mainly comes from local sources," said the report. "However, importation does constitute a reasonably high proportion of expenditure. Product importation could even be the sole or major source of supply."

The research was commissioned by the tourism ministry and funded by the Rural Economic Development Initiative, managed by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund. The study sought to determine and quantify the existing and potential demand for goods and services and access for the agricultural, manufacturing and entertainment sectors in Jamaica.

Importantly, imports for toothpaste for the sector are estimated at $12.1 billion, while towels total $20.53 billion.

For beverages, the leakages for bottled water amounts to $647.5 million; for vodka, $4.04 billion; rums, $1.48 billion; $887.7 million for wines; and $520 million for beers.

In the 'fruit, vegetables and tubers' segment, just under $70 million of rice and $66.9 million of Irish potatoes are imported.

The study estimated national demand based on responses from more than 20 businesses.

"Although 28 businesses participated in the survey, for the purpose of addressing the main study objectives, responses from only 23 tourism sector businesses were usable. This was due to non-response on critical questions by five respondents. Therefore, the results presented in this report are based on these 23 businesses or a subset thereof," the researchers said in the segment of the report explaining the methodology.

The report was released by the Tourism Linkages Council at a media briefing on Tuesday.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com