Mon | Jan 20, 2020

Wykeham McNeill | Gov’t failing tourism

Published:Tuesday | January 14, 2020 | 12:16 AM
The impressive tourism arrivals currently being seen is particularly pleasing not only because it is good for Jamaica, but also because of the role that these increases in investment have made in making it happen.
Dr Wykeham McNeill
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“Nobody wannu plant the corn

Everybody want to raid the barn

Who yuh a guh blame it on

When is a next man yuh a depend pon … .”

- Anthony B

 

We measure tourism’s performance by the annual rise or fall in stopover visitor arrivals. This has increased every year (usually between three and seven per cent) for decades (except for the years immediately following 9/11). So every year is the best year ever!

These increases are due to higher occupancies and minor expansions to existing properties. To achieve higher growth rates, especially double digits, necessitates substantial investment in new room stock.

Therefore, successive ministers of tourism, in trying to achieve substantial growth, constantly seek new investments in the sector, with the understanding that this growth will be accompanied by an increase in jobs and economic activity.

Over the last 20 years, we have had two real spurts of investments in tourism. From the late 1990s, we had about 6,000 new hotel rooms come on stream with the addition of properties such as:

• The Ritz-Carlton

• RIU Negril and Ocho Rios

• Bahia Principe

• Iberostar

• Secrets

• Grand Palladium

This wave ended in 2008.

We then had a lull until 2013, when the second wave began.

This wave saw the addition of:

• Sensatori, operated by Karisma

• Royalton Trelawny

• Breathless

• Hyatt

• Royalton

• Marriott

• Moon Palace

This accounted for approximately 3,000 new rooms added to our room stock.

While the second wave was being implemented, we started advance planning for a third wave.

TUI, the largest tour operators in the world, had indicated they wanted to introduce their premium brand Sensatori to Jamaica. It was at a dinner I hosted at Devon House that these investors and I discussed this project and I suggested a good place for Sensatori would be Negril, and the rest is history.

We were also in an advanced planning stage with Excellence Resort and H10 in Trelawny, Royalton Negril, as well as another major Karisma project, which should bring another 5,000 new rooms to Jamaica. This project would be the single largest investment in tourism in Jamaica ever, and I want to give special commendations to the major players in the Karisma group who have placed their confidence in Jamaica – Ruben, Mandy, Lubo and Rafael.

Karisma, the operators, were so impressed with the performance of Sensatori Negril that they wanted more. In 2014, we put them in touch with my shovel-ready programme and after extensive consultation, they found Llandovery, the site for the new Karisma project.

This commitment was so big that the chairman and board of directors of TUI flew to Jamaica from Germany to meet with me in Negril, at which point they told me the project was a go.

It is ironic that when we announced this project long before the last general election in 2016, some persons in Jamaica called it an election gimmick, but today they are more than happy to try and claim it. What is sad is that this project was to have come on stream in 2016-2017, and we are now in 2020 and it has not yet started. This three-year delay is due to bureaucratic bungling by the Government.

GOOD FOR JAMAICA

The impressive tourism arrivals currently being seen is particularly pleasing to me not only because it is good for Jamaica, but also because of the role that these increases in investment have made in making it happen.

By the way, in response to my article in The Sunday Gleaner (January 5, 2020), ‘Let the cruise shipping numbers speak’, Minister Edmund Bartlett accepted that there was in fact a 25 per cent decrease in cruise ship arrivals to Jamaica last year. However, he attributed the decrease to agreements made by the previous administration in 2015.

This is categorically false (I was being generous when I said half-truths). The minister should know (as he’s in charge of cruise shipping) that the current agreement in place with Royal Caribbean regarding Falmouth Port was signed by his colleague Mike Henry back in 2010, and covered the development and operations of the port.

“Anytime a government resorts to blaming the Opposition for its failure to deliver on their mandate and their responsibilities to the people, it is a clear sign that they have accepted that they have outlived their usefulness.”

– Prime Minister of Trinidad, Dr Keith Rowley

Dr Wykeham McNeill is shadow minister of tourism and member of parliament for Western Westmoreland. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.