Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
HIS FRIEND and colleagues describe him as the best tourism minister this country has ever had. Stakeholders in the industry say he is an astute marketer. And Jamaica rewarded him with an Order of Distinction (Commander Class) on National Heroes Day.
Former Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett was the toast of his constituency management team, colleagues and well-wishers who turned out to celebrate his latest accolade at the Round Hill Hotel and Villas, Hanover, on Friday, November 16.
The East Central St James member of parliament used the opportunity to announce that he was throwing his hat in the ring for chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party, the political group he has served for the last 35 years.
But, it was the indelible mark he has made to the island's number-one employer, tourism, that highlighted the evening of celebration.
"I have served every minister of tourism and, without a shadow of a doubt, Ed was the greatest of them all," declared former Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) president and chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, Godfrey Dyer.
Dyer joined an impressive group of men, who gave access to one female, Joan Gordon-Webley, to share her tremendous admiration for the man who made the term 'heads in beds' popular in Jamaica.
"I am happy that they are honouring you while you are alive because Edmund Bartlett is someone who works for his country," stated Gordon-Webley, as she openly offered herself to become his next general secretary should he win the JLP chairmanship.
The JHTA area chapter chair, Montego Bay, Omar Robinson, also paid tribute to the man he said hit the ground running when the JLP took office five years ago.
"He expanded and developed the product, taking the risk, while improving airlift to the island," said Robinson.
It was an evening of tributes, which saw Montego Bay businessman Pishu Chandiram opening batsman and former city Mayor Charles Sinclair and chief organiser Winston Dear bestowing the former minister with expressions of kindness that almost caused Bartlett who is never lost for words to become speechless.
"So much has been said, so much has humbled me to lack of words," admitted Bartlett.
It, however, didn't take him long to regain his voice to speak about the illustrious contribution he had made to the industry.
"Tourism is the only industry that will continue to grow this country because the foundation has been made," he declared.
Among the things Bartlett credits himself for are the expansion of airlift out of Europe and his work with the United Nation World Tourism Organisation.
"These are initiatives that have put us as the strongest in the region," he concluded.