Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Shaw: Stop flying in food with tourists - Minister raps hotels for import appetite

Published:Friday | November 15, 2019 | 12:14 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Keith Russell, chairman of Amaterra Group, and his wife, Paula, director of Amaterra Group, sign the agreement making Marriott International the operators of their 800-room Trelawny resort. Bojan Kumer (second right), vice-president of Marriott Hotel Development Caribbean, and Laurent de Kousemaeker, chief development officer, Caribbean and Latin America, await their turn to sign the document.
Keith Russell, chairman of Amaterra Group, and his wife, Paula, director of Amaterra Group, sign the agreement making Marriott International the operators of their 800-room Trelawny resort. Bojan Kumer (second right), vice-president of Marriott Hotel Development Caribbean, and Laurent de Kousemaeker, chief development officer, Caribbean and Latin America, await their turn to sign the document.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaican hotels have been urged to curb their appetite for imported foods and to build linkages with local farmers and distributors to provide tourists with island fare.

Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said that his ministry would be implementing “a strategic plan” to increase local production in order to better supply the growing tourism market.

“We must get to the point where our tourists are fed with predominantly Jamaican produce. We must stop flying the food on the plane with the tourists,” said Shaw, who was speaking at the official signing of a management agreement between local company the Amaterra Group and Marriott International at the Hard Rock Café, Montego Bay, on Wednesday.

The minister disclosed that a concerted effort would be made to integrate agriculture with tourism but did not offer specifics on how his vision would be implemented.

Reducing import dependency

Shaw’s hope is to wean hotels off foreign food, thereby reducing import dependency, a years-long goal that has failed to bear much fruit. Jamaican food imports top US$900 million.

“With over four million visitors to our shores annually, our world-renowned tourism industry continues to provide us with a large market for consumption of local produce,” he said.

“It is for that reason that we believe that Jamaican produce and our renowned cuisine must be a part of the menu provided in our hotels and resorts.”

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said the marriage between agriculture and tourism could yield great benefit if properly leveraged, with the more than 15,000 rooms slated to come on stream over the next five years.

“There will be opportunities that we have never seen before for our local farmers.There will be more tourists coming, and they will have to be fed,” Bartlett added. “This is one of the primary reasons why we have formed linkages … . This is one of the primary reasons why we have been working with all our local partners where we can position ourselves to capitalise on all these opportunities.”

Lauding the partnership between Amaterra and Marriott International, Bartlett said that it was part of a chain reaction of investments producing the “largest expansion of room stock in Jamaica’s history”.

The cooperation arrangement will allow Marriott to further expand its all-inclusive portfolio in popular leisure destinations worldwide and bring the first Marriott Hotels branded all-inclusive property to Jamaica.

Amaterra’s 800-room flagship development will be located 25 miles east of Sangster International Airport on the island’s north coast and is set on two miles of white-sand beach.

Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2020 and be completed in 2022.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com