Sun | Sep 15, 2019

Bartlett upbeat about tourism conference

Published:Thursday | January 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Edmund Bartlett

Come January 29, some 200 to 300 small and medium tourism enterprises (SMTEs) will take the spotlight at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James, for the United Nations World Tourism Organization - Government of Jamaica Second Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth.

An impressive roster of local and international speakers and panellists are expected to participate in this history-making event led by keynote presenter, former President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe VÈlez.

The main objective of the conference is to show the potential of and emphasise the fact that 80 per cent of tourism is driven by small and medium enterprises. No one is more cognisant of this fact than Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who is upbeat about the upcoming conference and wants participants to be more aware of the fact that whereas the SMTE sector contributes most to the tourism product, only 20 per cent of the returns from tourism redounds to their benefit.

"The conference is to create a discourse on how to rebalance that anomaly and to bring investment capital to ideas," said Bartlett. He said that strategies are in place to allow SMTEs to understand their potential, thereby moving from 'mom and pop' operators to established, reliable sources of sustainable and long-term income.

The minister said that another way to move the sector forward is to offer training, which is crucial to helping SMTEs broaden their horizons for creative output and better manage the economic activities in which they are involved. They can then market their products and acquaint themselves with the technological applications that can add value to their process.

"We have developed a strategy for this purpose through the Tourism Linkages Network and have identified five critical areas, namely:

- Gastronomy

- Sports and entertainment

- Health and wellness

- Knowledge

- Shopping.

"We have also looked at how to finance these initiatives," Bartlett said.

So far, J$1billion has been pumped into the EXIM Bank for lending at a rate of four and a half per cent to the SMTE sector, and people have been taking up the offer.

"Some $950 million has been lent to more than 70 entities, and they are also making repayments with interest. By April, $132 million in interest would have been repaid," Bartlett said.

The minister added that through these loans, more people will benefit in the future, and the range of offerings in the sector will expand. He said that the purpose of creating a specialised loan arrangement is to facilitate the investment in start-ups and to appreciate that there are numerous persons who have enormous capacity to produce, but who have no collateral.

"If we can collateralise ideas, inventiveness, and inventions, we will tap into the vast reservoir of creativity that is seen as dead capital," said the tourism minister, who will deliver the welcome at the conference.