Sun | Aug 25, 2019

Bartlett defends retention in tourism as highest among industries

Published:Friday | December 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.
President of MoneyMasters Limited, Claudette Crooks.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, in conversation with financial and market analysts, acknowledged criticism that the leakage of earnings from the tourism sector was as high as 70 per cent, but said the figure was still the lowest among big industries in Jamaica.

Essentially, of the money spent on Jamaica's tourism products and services, just 30 per cent is thought to stay in Jamaica. The rest flows overseas to foreign investors in the Jamaican sector, and external service providers.

But Bartlett, in his defence of how much Jamaicans benefits from tourism spend, said at the latest 'Breakfast Conversation with Analysts' hosted by MoneyMasters Limited on Thursday, that the retention rate in Jamaica was about midpoint the performance of its regional peers.

"Thirty per cent retention is perhaps the highest value added in any industry in the country today. Not even bauxite gives you 30 per cent," he reasoned.

His statement came just as MoneyMasters President Claudette Crooks was wrapping up the event. While thanking Bartlett for his participation in the forum, she urged his ministry to publish targets to reduce leakages by 2030 - the date by which Jamaica hopes to be reclassified as a developed country.

"So while we monitor the growth in arrivals, we also monitor closely the growth in our retention - no matter how small it is," said Crooks, who also called for the establishment of a commodities exchange for farm items, including tomatoes and other crops that flow into the tourism trade.

Earlier, Bartlett said in his speech that Jamaica ranked 13th among the countries in the world most dependent on tourism and that leakages will only be managed by increasing linkages.

"This is why we established a $1-billion revolving loan, through the Tourism Enhancement Fund and the EXIM Bank, to further assist with investment for micro and small Jamaican-owned businesses to build capacity to create and compete," he said. EXIM received 51 loan applications totalling $941 million, according to information in the written speech.

The tourism sector is performing at record levels, with around 4.3 million annual visitors who spend US$3.3 billion, with a growth rate that is six times that of the overall economy.

"At US$3 billion, it means US$1 billion is in circulation around the island, and you feel it in the industries that are connected," the tourism minister asserted.

"As you expand your loan portfolios, look at tourism seriously,'' he said, while noting that more local investment is one of the ways to arrest or reduce leakages.