Clash over 'extravagant' $125m tourism conference
The Andrew Holness administration has rejected the assertion from the Opposition People's National Party that the $125 million it plans to spend to host a tourism conference later this year is "extravagant".
Spokesman on Tourism Dr Wykeham McNeill made the charge Tuesday as the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament examined the proposed ministry spending for the upcoming 2017/2018 financial year which tarts on April 1.
McNeill said the allocation for the conference was too much as he queried the slashing of the budget to market Jamaica overseas by a third or $1 million.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett responded that the event is an important one that will bring global tourism stakeholders together to discuss, among other things, making tourism sustainable.
The politeness, however, was soon ditched as the two traded arguments about who did better growing the tourism sector.
"To put $125 million on a conference to be held in Jamaica given all the other problems we have as a country, I do believe that that expenditure is a bit extravagant," McNeill argued. "For Jamaica, I don't think even when we have hosted heads of government of CARICOM, I don't think the expenditure has ever reached this level."
CONCERNS IN OPPOSITION
Bartlett hit back with his concerns while he was in opposition about then PNP government's expenditure to market Jamaica at the 2012 Olympic Games in the United Kingdom.
"I hear you, but when you spend £1 million in London, that pales in comparison to what we are going to do with the biggest marketing opportunity that Jamaica has ever had. I rest my case," he said.
McNeill said the actual figure was £500,000 and "the record of what we achieved in London we came of out London following four years of negative growth and the year after 2012, we had 4.5 per cent growth".
Bartlett explained that the four years when growth from the London market was down coincided with the global economic recession. He was the tourism minister for the period 2007-2011, while McNeill led the portfolio from 2012 to February 2016.
"First of all, you must know what the conference is. You mention technical, you know a technical conference is? A technical conference deals primarily with issues relating to technical matters of how things are done and best practices only," he argued.
"This is not a technical conference, this is a conference with investment opportunities, this is a conference of best practices, this is a conference of facilitation, this is a conference which is bringing the entire world to this destination." Bartlett said sponsorship may result in savings from the $125 million budgeted.
Jamaica will host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's Global Conference on Building Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism for Development, scheduled for Montego Bay, St James, from November 27 to 29.
Some 157 countries are expected to participate.