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Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, has underscored the need for greater collaboration between the Ministry and its partners, to improve critical aspects of the tourism product, where Jamaica has not performed particularly well.
Speaking at a workshop, jointly staged by the Competitiveness Company of Jamaica, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and World Economic Forum (WEF), at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on September 9, to present the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report for 2008, Mr. Bartlett said Jamaica is ranked an overall 59th, out of 130 countries globally, in 14 key areas assessed on which the findings are outlined in the document.
Highlighting specific areas, the Minister said Jamaica ranked 13th in the category of policy and regulation, fourth in the area of affinity for travel and tourism, and second in the sub-category of prioritisation for travel and tourism.
He pointed out, however, that Jamaica is ranked 102nd in the sub-category of safety and security; 100th in the focus placed on cultural resources; 99th in environmental sustainability and natural resources; and 82nd in health and hygiene. Noting that Jamaica is ranked higher than the United States, 119th placing in the area of safety and security, Mr. Bartlett argued that Jamaica’s position “must be regarded as a case about managing perception.”
“We get beat upon and categorised as being a very unsafe destination, and we suffer greatly in the marketplace. But, I don’t think that our big neighbour suffers that problem at all, of perception. So, we are going to have to manage more carefully, the whole perception out there. That rating is against the background that Jamaica has the most enviable record of visitor safety, where, when you do the numbers, we are looking at less than one per cent of the crimes committed in Jamaica, are crimes against the visitor. So, in the context of that, the visitor is very safe in Jamaica, but the crime statistics do not state that,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that the overall conclusion of the findings for Jamaica, relates, primarily, to how the Ministry interfaces with the agencies responsible for delivering on the key areas outlined, adding that it “begs the question about what we need to do to improve our results.”
Noting that some of the most critical areas, key to improving the results, are outside the Ministry’s purview, Mr. Bartlett stressed the need for greater collaboration with their partners to address the relevant areas, pointing out that efforts to this end, have already been initiated.
In the area of safety and security, he said that the Ministry has partnered with the security forces in creating and enhancing the Resort Security Corps, in order to improve security in the resort areas.
Additionally, he said $33 million has been invested in establishing a mobile command and control unit, for the Montego Bay police in St. James to utilise along the resort city’s Hip Strip on Gloucester Avenue.
He also advised that $200 million is to be spent installing street lights along the corridor from Greenwood at the border of Trelawny and St. James, to the Sangster International Airport. He noted that investments are being made in closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, for installation in Montego Bay initially, and subsequently Ocho Rios in St. Ann and Kingston.
“We have spent some $40 million on traffic management in the Montego Bay area. We have also made sure that the tourism sector is represented on the Jamaica Constabulary Board, so that our ideas can permeate the policy position flowing from those agencies. So, in terms of security and safety, we are trying to play our part. We are open for further collaboration, to ensure that we can do even more as the industry grows and our capacity grows, so will our ability to do more,” Mr. Bartlett said.
He pointed out that there has been significant improvement in the area of environmental sustainability, but stressed that “much more needs to be done.” This, the Minister added, includes improvements in sewage disposal.
Regarding garbage disposal, another area of concern, Mr. Bartlett said the Ministry has been working with the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA). He also disclosed that programmes have been developed to address other issues, such as protection of the country’s watersheds, and marine life, as well as effecting energy conservation measures, with a Green Paper being tabled in Parliament pertaining to the latter.
With respect to health and hygiene, the Minister said that while this is outside of his Ministry’s purview, the Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has indicated his cognisance of their impact on tourism.
Mr. Bartlett pledged his Ministry’s commitment to work with the relevant agencies to effect improvements to the communities served by the industry.
“Our effort, therefore, through the resources of tourism, is to give the support to those industries and those agencies that are responsible for protecting our natural resources and energy,” he explained.
The Minister also expressed the hope of greater private sector involvement in the activities and initiatives being pursued.
“We want to go beyond where public sector involvement is, because, pretty much all that I have said, relates to our collaboration with public sector entities. But there is the need for further collaboration with the private sector, which is key to us. Because if tourism is to have, what we call the flow through effect in the economy, then it has to forge linkages with all of the other industries that are feeding into it,” Mr. Bartlett argued.