CONTRIBUTION TO THE 2008/09 STATE OF THE NATION DEBATE BY SENATOR DENNIS MEADOWS


Mr. President, members of this honourable Senate, I wish to use this opportunity to express my profound gratitude for the opportunity afforded me by the appointment to this Honorable Senate by the Prime Minister and Chief Servant, Hon. Orrett Bruce Golding.
Mr. President, I deemed it an honored and a privileged position as less than 300 persons since attaining universal adult suffrage, are appointed to sit in this Honorable Senate. Mr. President, we often take for granted the significance of our appointment and instead exude arrogance and snobbery by our utterances.
Mr. President, while my interest lies in representational politics, because I believe it is the most effective vehicle through which one can impact positively on the lives of the Jamaican people, however, since my appointment I have come to appreciate the upper house, the Senate. There are those who regard this august body as a mere review chamber, discounting its usefulness in the legislative process, this runs contrary to my view, that the Senate is the most important arm in the legislative process.
Mr. President, it is my hope that on the completion of this presentation in this State of the Nation Debate you will be assured that the “state of the nation” is in good hands, particularly as it relates to Tourism, Mining, Energy and Telecommunication, sectors I will briefly address today.
Mr. President, I am assured by the policy decisions taken to date since this Government took office some nine (9) months ago, of its competence, sincerity of governance and a genuine desire to improve the lives of the Jamaican people.
TOURISMMr. President, Tourism sector is critical to Jamaica’s economic viability, earning some provisionally estimated US$1.934 billion in 2007. I want to use this opportunity to commend the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Ed. Bartlett (Chief Salesman) on the energy, new vision he brings to the portfolio. He possesses an enviable knowledge of the industry and has hit the ground running, selling Jamaica to the world.
Mr. President, the global outlook for tourism continues to be one of steady growth. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) estimates that international tourist arrivals grew by about 5.6 percent during 2007 to reach 898 million. This follows on top of a 4.5% increase in 2006.
The challenge is that the Caribbean area as a whole is not participating in this growth, and could lose market share to other destinations.
In case of Jamaica, 2007 was equally challenging for the local industry.. The impact of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) was strong, resulting in declines from the USA, Jamaica’s main market.. The anticipated influx of visitors to the island as a result of Cricket World Cup 2007 did not materialize.. Also as a result of CWC 2007, visitors form certain European countries had to purchase visas in order to enter Jamaica. That requirement had some negative impact on arrivals.. Cancun and Cayman, which were devastated by hurricane Wilma in 2005 and from which Jamaica benefited as a result of vdiversion of some business throughout 2006, returned to the international market.. In August hurricane Dean hit the island causing a significant decline in stopovers. Some cruise ships were diverted, resulting in declines in this category.
Mr. President, Jamaica’s performance has been in keeping with the regional trend, with a 1.2% growth against the regions averages of 1.5%. This indicates that the potential exists to expand the tourism industry and to make it a leading sector of the economy. This fact is all the more significant, given the resource constraints that the country now faces.
Mr. President, it is the tourism sector that holds the greatest potential for generating income, employment and economic growth in the short, medium and long term. As such the sector is destined to play a very critical role in the national development, going forward.
Tourism Performance 2007. Stopover arrivals increased by 1.2% to reach 1,696,931. Cruise passengers arrivals of 1,179,504 showed a decline of 11.8 percent. Gross foreign exchange earnings are provisionally estimated at US$1.934 billion, an increase of 3.4%. The average hotel room occupancy rate was approximately 63.1% which represents a marginal increase of 3.4% over 2006 occupancy. Total capacity in the accommodation sub-sector stands at 27,231 rooms, of which 20,106 are in hotels and another 7,125 in villas, guesthouses and apartments
The “New Tourism” VisionMr. President, against the background of a changing global environment that contains challenges as well as opportunities for Jamaica’s tourism industry, and given the resource constraints at the national level, the Ministry of Tourism is seeking to accelerate the expansion of the Tourism sector, thus stimulating economic growth, generating additional employment and contributing to poverty reduction.
Mr. President, the Ministry of Tourism has adopted the “New Tourism” as its long-term vision. This vision is based on the new and ever-changing environment facing Tourism today- an environment that contains tremendous opportunities as well as serious challenges.
Mr. President, the “New Tourism” vision has at its core the idea of a coherent partnership between the Public and Private sectors, working to ensure benefits for all Jamaica.
Mr. President, the Government, and the Ministry of Tourism has an overall vision of Tourism as a genuine “growth engine” for the Jamaican economy, providing through its extensive contribution to incomes, employment and linkages, the opportunity of sustainable livelihoods and a better quality of life for all Jamaicans.
Mr. President, the Private sector must embrace sustainable tourism, balancing economic gain with a healthy concern for people, culture and environment. The entire country needs to be part of this “new tourism” vision, building a genuine hospitality culture and fostering a commitment to high-quality service, excellence at every level.
Mr. President, in this context, the new mission of the Ministry of Tourism is to “transform Jamaica’s unique landscape, the talents of our people and our vibrant culture into tourism opportunities for a better Jamaica”.
Mr. President, the new thrust of the Ministry is to ensure that tourism performs as an engine of growth for the entire economy making optimal use of Jamaica’s land, people, heritage and culture and promoting strong linkages with other sectors across the economy, thus contributing to sustainable growth.
Mr. President, the Ministry seeks to strengthen the capabilities of the Ministry and its agencies to contribute more effectively to the effort to increase visitor arrivals and expenditures by ensuring enhanced visitor experience, increased marketing efforts in existing and new markets, increased investments in the tourism product and human resources. This will be achieved through the following strategies, which are to be executed in this fiscal year:
1. Rationalizing and restructuring of tourism agencies and entities (including resuscitation of JAMVAC)2. Centralization of communications and Public Relations services3. Destination Marketing and promotion programmes4. Marketing of Cruise and Marine tourism and attractions5. Product development (including attractions development and the development of Devon House, Milk River Hotel and Spa and Bath Fountain Hotel and Spa).6. Craft Development – Artisan Village, Craft Institute (in collaboration with HEART/NTA)7. Coordinating the development of a Hospital School8. Developing a Pension Scheme for the Tourism industry9. Repositioning Tourism as an export sector10. Support for Small Properties11. “Spruce Up Jamaica” Programme Phase 212. Improving safety and security in resort areas13. Supporting sustainable development of the natural and built environment of the tourism industry.14. Improving measurement of the performance and contribution of tourism through Tourism Satellite Accounts.
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