Investing in tourism
The following are excerpts from Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett's contribution to the 2010-2011 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives last Wednesday.
Mr Speaker, I address this Honourable House against the background of a global economic landscape which was characterised by the worst recession in recent times and the prospects of a recovery that, at best, leaves the world in a cloud of uncertainty. Indeed, as we say in tourism 'the only certainty is uncertainty'.
I am proud to say that in the face of the global and regional challenges, Jamaica has shown that we can compete with the world's best. Today's tourists demand value for money and a unique experience, and Jamaica is more than capable of meeting these demands by simply being Jamaican — through our culture, our hospitality, our cuisine and most of all, our people.
The demands of today's traveler, the cut backs on discretionary spending, and increased competition, force us to be more innovative and to work smarter, ensuring we get our piece of the tourism pie.
In the coming year, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) will make greater use of technology and the Internet as important vehicles in the execution of its marketing plan to increase bookings. To this end, Mr Speaker, the JTB has embarked on a comprehensive online marketing strategy.
In addition to redesigning www.visitjamaica.com , the official travel site for Jamaica, the JTB has also embarked upon an aggressive use of social media aimed at engaging, educating and captivating travelers online. Plans are underway to further expand Jamaica's presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well as reaching travelers through their smart phones.
As a result of the Jamaica Debt Exchange, the subsequent reduction of interest rates and the government's efforts to create a better investment climate, tourism is well positioned to be a primary engine of growth. The last few years will attest to this, but there is still much to be done.
This low interest rate environment will mean that projects that have been shelved will now become feasible. In addition, new investments will become attractive. In the economies of our major trading and investing partners, we are now receiving reports of recovery in their capital markets which could result in the re-evaluation of a number of tourism projects which were placed on hold.
A number of international investors are keen to establish ventures in Jamaica, despite the global economic crisis. These investments will bring employment and opportunities for Jamaica through much-needed foreign direct investment. But, let us not forget that we have local players who have made a major contribution to our country's tourism product and are still willing to invest in their home country.
Existing tourism projects injected approximately J$14.702 billion into the economy for the financial year 2009-2010. This expenditure took place between Golden Eye in Oracabessa, HOSPITEN in Montego Bay, Secrets Resorts in Montego Bay, and the Palmyra condominium project.
Mr. Speaker, two new hotels are to be built in Kingston, one being a Sandals City, a corporate hotel, which is expected to open in 2013. The other is a major US chain hotel, which is now finalising land purchases and will commence soon.
Michael Lee Chin's Trident Hotel and the Castle, both in Port Antonio, are now back on track. Port Antonio will also welcome back the Blue Lagoon development. These projects will help transform Port Antonio into a diversified region and provide a much-needed boost to the area's economy.
The Burrowes family has announced plans to open a second Dolphin Cove attraction in Lucea.
Phase two of the expansion of the Bahia Principe and the Palladium are under way.
In addition, Grupo Exellence has indicated a readiness to move forward with phase one of their 350-room project.
Falmouth is also coming on stream. The cruise port development, which is to be completed by 2011, will have an additional quarter-billion dollar investment in port side and shore excursions. The Urban Development Corporation and the Ministry of Tourism are deeply involved in this project. Indeed, TEF is spending J$53 million dollars on this project.