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Lee-Chin, Wehby named to new tourism task force

Published:Tuesday | April 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett (centre) addresses representatives of the western business sector during a Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica seminar on tourism and business linkages, held at the Wexford hotel in Montego Bay on April 22. Bartlett is flanked by (from left) Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr Christopher Tufton, and Managing Editor of the Western Mirror, Lloyd B. Smith. - JIS Photo

A special task force - whose work will be co-funded from private and public sources - to determine the aggregate demand for goods and services in the tourist industry has been created by Government.

State news agency, JIS, reports that the task force includes a mix of public and private-sector representatives such as billionaire investor Michael Lee-Chin; group chief operating officer at GraceKennedy, Don Wehby; Derrick Deslandes, a consultant in the Ministry of Agriculture; president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, Omar Azan; general manager of Jamaica National Building Society Earl Jarrett; head of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, Dr Sonia Jackson; president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association Wayne Cummings.

The aim is to establish how tourism can further drive business throughout the local economy. Tourism now accounts for 5.8 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) - marginally higher than agriculture's 5.6 per cent - and directly employs some 80,200 people at Planning Institute of Jamaica's 2009 estimate.

Business expansion

The two sectors have been making efforts over the past decade to expand business partnerships for the supply of produce to the mostly import-dependent hotels that have traditionally bought from overseas markets because of, they say, greater surety of volume supplies and more variety.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who made the announcement on April 22 in Montego Bay at a forum organised by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), said the task force would focus its work on overseeing research, to be done over a six-month period, and assessing the linkages between tourism and the different areas of the economy and determining how they can be improved.

The forum on tourism linkages with local business was held in collaboration with the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Jamaica National Building Society.

"The findings of this research that is to be funded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund and the PSOJ will go a far way in increasing tourism linkages with the national economy for improved economic growth," said Bartlett.

Tourism ranks ninth in contribution to GDP and employs seven per cent of the labour force, Bartlett said.