Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says the sector has been rebounding speedily over the past two years, and Jamaica must continue to offer a high-quality product to maintain the flow of benefits that have been reaped to date.
Mr. Bartlett, who was speaking at the Ministry’s Level Up Showcase and Graduation Ceremony at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James, on May 26, said it is against this background that Jamaica needs to continue harnessing the talents of its most iconic asset (the people) and remain steadfast in its approach that “we are more than just sand, sea and sun.”
“Our citizens, who are naturally talented, can be exposed to a wide variety of other forms and areas of entertainment that they themselves can become professionals in,” Mr. Bartlett argued.
“However, we are mindful that to continue this positive trend, we must offer a product that delivers memorable and engaging visitor experiences,” he added.
The Minister emphasised that entertainment remains an important value-added product which should be utilised in a more strategic way within the tourism industry, to enhance the sector’s growing fortunes.
He also reminded that entertainment is one of the passion points of “our visitors” and one of the many reasons why millions of persons travel to Jamaica each year.
“It’s in our interest to continue making our offerings unforgettable and appealing,” the Minister suggested.
He commended all the participants and graduates of the inaugural Level Up Capacity Building Training Programme, which was completed at the end of March this year.
“I also want to thank the entire team from the Ministry of Tourism for initiating and executing this innovative programme, and for being cognisant of the importance of harnessing the skills of some of our budding artistes and entertainers, enabling them to be a part of the tourism explosion to come,” the Minister said.
Mr. Bartlett explained that the expected outcomes of the training programme are to strengthen the skills of participants and boost their employability; to establish a pool of trained performing artistes from which entertainment managers and local hotel talent scouts can choose in western Jamaica; and to provide a linkage opportunity for local hotel talent scouts to view dynamic and talented local performers.
The Minister noted that the opportunities for formal training in the areas of music, singing, dancing, and acting are predominantly located in Kingston, which means that persons based in areas such as western Jamaica must invest much more to relocate to the capital city to be able to access these training opportunities.
Mr. Bartlett said this has impacted how western-based performers are able to develop their performance skills and thus be employable in the tourism sector.
“With these challenges in mind, it was, therefore, quite strategic that Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, recently announced the Government’s decision to develop a Tourism Entertainment Academy, to enhance Jamaica’s entertainment and cultural offerings as a way of expanding the tourism industry’s contribution to national development,” he noted.
“The Tourism Enhancement Fund has allocated $50 million to develop the Academy. This is a welcome move as we mark Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of Independence, and especially since this institution will be housed on the Montego Bay Convention Centre lands in St. James and would help to solve the problem of our western entertainment practitioners having to commute to Kingston to have access to training opportunities,” the Minister said.