MSME to get priority attention - Bartlett
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says his ministry is on a pathway to decrease the sector's import bill through the introduction of several programmes geared towards empowering micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to produce authentic locally made products for visitors.
Speaking at last Thursday's western Jamaica launch of the 2017 Caribbean MSME Conference in Montego Bay, St James, the tourism minister said that despite the gains in foreign exchange from tourism, more than half that money does not stay in the island and is instead channeled into the import bill.
"So they (tourists) bring the money come and it goes back out even when they consume things locally because we have to import everything," said Bartlett.
Jamaica earned approximately $2.5 billion from the 2.2 million stopover visitors last year.
"So we (the country) now must put ourselves in the position where the shops that we have sell authentic Jamaican items and merchandise, which the people will generate in Jamaica and (the income) stay in Jamaica. We also need to produce food here. If we do that, then the dollar will remain here," added Bartlett.
The Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation, which was recently established, was created to drive the development of local businesses. Training for individuals and MSMEs will begin in September at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
According to Bartlett, formal training will be provided in various areas of tourism to the participants, who will be provided with the requisite accreditation and certification at the end of training. He also noted that there will be the establishment of the Institute of Craft Development to broaden the perspective of local craft vendors and lead to the creation of more indigenous products.
REAL PUSH NEEDED
"We are committed to do that. We are putting our money where our mouth is, but we want you to buy into it," said Bartlett.
"So, let us own it and give small and medium entities a real push to create jobs, earn money and have prosperity."
The much-anticipated 2017 Caribbean MSME Conference, which will be held at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay from July 19 to 21.
Close to a 1,000 people from all the countries in CARICOM are expected to attend the event, which will be staged under the theme 'Collaboration for Caribbean Sustainability'.
The conference will focus on matters such as relating to policies, finance and trade that can lead to greater collaboration with businesses in the Caribbean.