Tue | May 26, 2020

Jamaica misses boat to showcase local talent at UNWTO conference

Published:Thursday | January 31, 2019 | 12:00 AM


The use of mass-produced Chinese promotional items by the organisers of the UNWTO 2nd Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth has been met with strong disapproval by at least one member of the international media who was in attendance.

Senior journalist and managing director of United Kingdom-based travel media company Travelmole, Graham McKenzie, says the UNWTO should have made it a top priority that all conference memorabilia, including the conference promotional bags, were made in the host country, Jamaica, by local entrepreneurs.

“We got the bags yesterday after the conference, and the actual bag was made in China, and when you looked inside, there was a plastic water bottle – which was strange for a start – and that plastic bottle, made in China, was inside what looked like a thin single-use plastic bag,” McKenzie said.

The conference, organised by the Ministry of Tourism, was staged at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Tuesday.

“This conference was about supporting SMEs (small and medium enterprises) within the tourism industry and within the economy in general throughout the Caribbean, yet here we are at a UNWTO conference in Jamaica and the giveaways were made in China, and I find it very surprising,” McKenzie added.

According to McKenzie, the conference bag “was no different to any other bag that is given at any other conference in the world”.

“There was nothing different, nothing unique, nothing local, nothing authentic, and it’s produced by a machine in the middle of China.”

Surely, he said, the organisers would have known that the conference was going to be staged from at least six or eight months ago, and that would have given any Jamaican producer the opportunity to bid and to manufacture some of the items.

“Hence, supporting SMEs as opposed to some huge conglomerate in China and then you have transport issues of taking them all the way from China to Jamaica. It just seems absurd, quite frankly.”

McKenzie argued that it was a good opportunity to give business to an SME in Jamaica, yet somebody along the decision chain chose not to go with that but to go with cheap.

He also expressed concern about the message being seen, by the contents of the conference bags, in light of Jamaica’s ban on the use of single-use plastic bags as an environmental conservation effort.

“There is no need to put a water bottle in another plastic inside a bag. That’s just useless. Half of them will now be floating in the Caribbean Sea, being eaten by a turtle, or something.

“The reduction of single-use plastics should be something as prominent in an environment such as tourism here in Jamaica, which so much relies on the environment in particular.”

When contacted, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said he was in agreement with McKenzie’s concerns.

“I am telling you, I don’t disagree with him at all. This is one of the reasons we are working so hard on the SMTEs (small and medium tourism enterprises) and creating the linkages ... . We want more and more locally produced goods to dominate the cultural asset experience of our visitors,” he told The Gleaner.