Jamaica to develop cannabis-infused health and wellness tourism
Jamaica's lush and rustic southwestern coast has been earmarked as ideal for the development of health and wellness tourism.
In advocating this position, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said this area is also ideally suited for the concept of cannabis-infused tourism where cannabis products would play a major part in the tourism sector.
Health and wellness tourism has been identified as one of the key areas of focus under the ministry's growth strategy to grow visitor arrivals to five million annually, generating earnings of US$5 billion by 2021.
In an opening address at Canex Jamaica, the first cannabis-centred conference on the business potential of the marijuana trade held in St James, Bartlett said he recognised "how the cannabis product and its application could fit neatly in a network of health and wellness that could drive a new demographic into Jamaica with a higher spend, and which will be able to establish us as a destination with a difference."
Jamaica has already decriminalised marijuana and is pursuing strategies to tap into the multi-billion medicinal marijuana industry. In an invitation to marijuana growers and prospective investors at the conference, Bartlett urged them to examine "how you can work with me to drive this new experience and to invest in the prosperity agenda that the country has."
Determining where this initiative could best be rolled out, the tourism minister said it was not desirable to be a destination with only all-inclusive properties and mass tourism. "We believe that we can do product differentiation and we can do a level of product diversification, which enables us to be attractive to all demographics," he said.
An element of that, he said, was "rustic luxury", which combined nature with the benefit of a luxurious lifestyle, while enabling the utilisation of "the nutraceutical values of the rich biodiversity of your neighbourhood."
Bartlett said the global market for this kind of tourism stood at some US$494 billion "and we want a piece of it. And what we've found also is that cannabis-infused experiences have added much to health and wellness across the United States."
He cited Colorado where bookings increased by over 175 per cent when it entered that market, and Amsterdam, which has also benefited tremendously.
The minister said the Health and Wellness Network that he has established in the tourism ministry had been tasked with defining the policy "that will provide the framework within which the cannabis-infused health and wellness experience will be a reality in Jamaica."
It will be defined in terms of attractions, consequently the existing policy on attractions will be tweaked "and we're going to have a full roll-out of that by the end of 2017," he disclosed.
Bartlett described the cannabis-centred health and wellness subsector as "a very important part of the economic future of Jamaica."
He assured his audience that "we are going to provide space for investment in the tourism product."
Pinpointing the area from Negril's Westend to Black River (Treasure Beach) in the southern region of St Elizabeth, the minister said he believed it would provide "useful geographic space for us to consider a new destination, one that is characterised by health and wellness."