Bartlett aims for gastronomy market
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has said that Jamaica is uniquely poised to tap into the US$150-billion international gastronomy market.
Addressing the Gastronomy of Fats and Oils Seminar on Wednesday at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St James, Bartlett said studies conducted by the tourism ministry show that food is a major draw for overseas visitors, and that Jamaica's culinary delights rank among the best in the world.
"Earlier this year, I introduced the framework to develop gastronomy tourism locally. I appointed a gastronomy network, which falls under the aegis of our tourism linkages network, to develop initiatives to strengthen Jamaica's competitiveness in gastronomy tourism as we diversify our product to generate higher growth rates in both visitor arrivals and earnings," the minister said.
"Jamaican food, rum and music are all critical ingredients in the building out of this gastronomy experience," he added.
The minister said Jamaica is fortunate to be blessed with culinary delights born out of the rich diversity of its heritage, and that "this fusion of cultures has created a melting pot of gastronomic wonders that make us ideally positioned to take advantage of the growing phenomenon of culinary travel".
He explained that today's visitor is more experienced and informed than tourists were 10 years ago, making it even more important for destinations to improve on their tourism offerings.
He pointed out that as gastronomy tourism continues to fuel visitors' interest, it is imperative that local chefs are not only skilled in cooking, "but also in other aspects of food preparation".
"It will require them to keep updated with the industry's needs in order to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving gastronomy tourism sector. In addition, it will challenge us all to produce culinary products and brands that best represent our authentic heritage," he said.
Bartlett said that all the evidence point to the fact that gastronomy tourism provides an opportunity for stakeholders to add value to the island's tourism sector by diversifying the product while promoting local economic development.
"It strengthens the linkages sectors, benefiting manufacturers, suppliers, farmers, food and beverage managers and chefs," Bartlett said.
"At the same time, it benefits communities by supporting the local farmers, developing and expanding businesses, creating new dining experiences and increasing overnight stays in local hotels. It also educates visitors about the local culture and way of life," he added.