JHTA supports Jamaican entrepreneurs
The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), a supporter of local industries through initiatives like the Speed Networking Event and the annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), says it is on a thrust to deepen its involvement and support of entrepreneurs in the island.
"These inspiring young entrepreneurs are already changing the Jamaican landscape and creating jobs," said JHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig.
"Youth unemployment is real in Jamaica; innovation and entrepreneurship will advance Jamaica. This local movement is about positioning entrepreneurship as a solution, as well as generating energy and dynamism that can transform our society and our economy."
One entrepreneur who is making waves is Patria-Kaye Aarons, CEO of Sweetie Confectionery.
The company recently expanded its reach into the US market through distributors Eve Sales.
Sweetie Confectionery will be participating in Expo Jamaica, slated for April 14-17, which the JHTA is also supporting.
"Brand Jamaica is not something that we can only enjoy, but something that we can build. We were importing US$7.5 million of goods and I thought to myself, this should be money coming into our economy rather than us paying it out. I may have found a niche, with candy but there are so many other things that we can make in Jamaica," said Aarons.
This statement holds very true, as a number of private- and public-sector entities have been making efforts aimed at increasing the penetration levels for small and medium-sized companies to compete on a local and international scale.
Another example is JHTA member Go Jamaica Travel, whose small travel agent company has morphed into a seven-employee unit with more than 11,000 room nights in annual production, representing more than a 35 per cent increase when compared to 2014.
Go Jamaica Travel was also recently awarded, again, the 'Best Caribbean Tour Operator' at the recently held World Travel Awards.
Dave Chin Tong, managing director of Go Jamaica Travel, said: "There are various avenues to be an entrepreneur and gain from the tourism market, from being a traditional supplier of goods and services to being a part of the travel value chain."
Aarons: "The time is right now. There are a slew of Jamaicans out there that might not have had an opportunity to go through the formal education system, but they have the ability and aptitude to create start-ups. It's time for us to facilitate job creation so that persons leaving university can create opportunities for themselves."
Madden-Greig concluded: "Tourism is a great equaliser and offers a myriad of opportunities outside of hotel ownership."
She said while the JHTA also encourages local investors to look at the accommodation avenue, there is a wealth of other opportunities that spin out of tourism, including transportation, attractions, restaurants, day spas, and events, to name a few.
Madden-Greig said the JHTA encourages local entrepreneurs to think outside of the box, and innovate to meet the needs of discerning travellers who crave authentic experiences.