Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, during his Sectoral Debate presentation on Tuesday, May 7 says that strengthening linkages and human capital development are key areas of focus for his ministry in reimaging the island’s tourism product.
Bartlett told the House of Representatives that it was necessary to revamp the island’s tourism product in light of changes to the industry created by the popularity of the sharing economy, which has seen the rise of market disrupters like Airbnb and Uber.
According to Bartlett, these major disruptors are, “challenging the viability of our indigenous and traditional accommodation and transportation sectors in particular”.
One of the ways Bartlett has sought to address these disruptors is through his ministry’s continued focus on strengthening linkages.
In making his presentation, Bartlett noted that this continued focus has already began to bear fruit, highlighting that the latest review from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reported that 40.8 cents of every dollar a tourist spends stays in the Jamaican economy.
Bartlett said that the new figure represents a 36% increase from the 30% retention that the country had prior.
“This is good news for us as it reflects the results of our deliberate policy encapsulated in our Tourism Linkages programme to reduce the leakages of the tourism dollar by increasing the linkages,” Minister Bartlett noted.
Bartlett further indicated that there had been the launch of several web and mobile applications such as, Taste Jamaica and Top Events Jamaica, which aim to better integrate visitors into the Jamaican social scene.
As for primary producers, Bartlett contended that through the Tourism Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) Pilot Project, 400 local farmers have been connected with hoteliers and this has resulted in approximately 360,000 kg of agricultural produce made available to hotels, valued at over J$39 million.
Adding that another major component in the reimagining process is the human capital development strategy, Bartlett said that there have been several educational developments in this regard.
In particular, the Tourism Minister highlighted the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI), which was launched in 2017 and was on target to train 8,000 tourism workers over the next five years.
“The future of tourism lies in the manipulation and exploitation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) capabilities such as big data, big data analytics, blockchain technologies, the Internet of Things, robotics, etc,” said Bartlett.
Bartlett added that his ministry was looking to capitalize on the opportunities for high-skilled employment that are being generated in the ICT-related fields in tourism.