Sacrifices paying off - Morrison
Jamaicans are poised to begin reaping the benefits of the sacrifices they have had to endure as a result of Government's harsh fiscal policies over the last two and a half years, according to Dennis Morrison, chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).
"All of this has involved painful adjustments by the people - all of us have felt it. But now we are beginning to see, by way of these investments, as well as our improved credit rating, the results of the sacrifices we have made and indeed are still making," Morrison declared recently.
"I speak of the expansion in hotel rooms which translates into jobs, production of local goods and services, foreign exchange earnings to pay for our essential goods, and revenue to pay for vital services," the economist said at a press briefing hosted by the JTB to announce a major investment project that will add 800 new hotel rooms.
Construction is set to begin on a 425-room five-star family hotel in Coral Springs, Trelawny, early next year, with completion set for 2018. This all-inclusive seaview luxury room facility is the first of two hotels to be built by Ocean by H10 Hotels, a Spanish and Canadian joint venture led by Spanish hotel chain H10 Hotels from Barcelona. The other is a five-star all-inclusive adults-only hotel with 375 seaview rooms on the same property.
This US$200 million investment is another indication of the strong confidence in the local economy by foreign investors, which has resulted in the "unprecedented expansion" in the tourism industry in recent times, Morrison told journalists gathered at the JTB's New Kingston head office. He attributed this to the economic strategies being implemented by the Government.
"Specifically, I refer to the comprehensive tax reform programme, reduction in inflation, reduction in interest rates, and reduction in the national debt.
"Jamaica has implemented an internationally competitive general income tax regime which promotes the conduct of business in the country."
Meanwhile, the JTB said in a release that the latest project comes against the background of a "massive wave" of investment in the tourism sector which will also see the addition of some 2,694 rooms by year end. This it attributes to the upgrading and expansion of properties as well as construction of new hotels, representing an overall investment of US$500 million.
Shahine Robinson, opposition spokesperson on tourism and cruise shipping, recently voiced concerns about the preparedness of the island's key resort areas, with the official start of the 2015-2016 winter tourism season a few weeks away.
"With so many destinations offering sun, sand and sea, it is imperative that Jamaica distinguishes itself in the marketplace by complementing the warmth of its people and its unique culture with world-class aesthetics," she said in a press release.
"I am gravely concerned that there are no discernible signs of beautification and other meaningful product-enhancement activities being pursued by the Government. It is of critical importance that the Government makes adequate financial resources available, particularly to the major resort towns, so that some meaningful and discernible product-enhancement activities can get under way ahead of the upcoming winter tourist season."