Heightened Focus on Development Issues in Tourism – Dr. Mcneill


State Minister for Industry and Tourism, Dr. Wykeham McNeill said today that with the rebound of the tourism sector, there was heightened focus on development issues related to tourism, particularly in poorer destinations.
He said there was also greater recognition of both the widespread socio-economic ramifications and potential of the sector.
Dr. McNeill was speaking at the opening of JAMPRO’s tourism linkages seminar at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
He pointed out that here in Jamaica, a number of circumstances combined to suggest considerable opportunities for strong growth in tourism and the potential for substantially increased linkages with other sectors in the short to medium term. He added that some insight into these possibilities was provided in looking at, short to medium term investment in the sector, current performance, and the implementation of the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development.
The State Minister highlighted the fact that last year, there was a 4.8 per cent increase in arrivals over 2003, despite the passage of Hurricane Ivan in September. Cumulatively, he informed that the European market increased by 11 per cent last year over 2003, a movement which was partly due to the strengthening of the Euro over the United States dollar. The United Kingdom saw an 8 per cent increase; Germany recorded an 11 per cent increase and Italy an increase of three per cent.
He noted that visitor arrivals to the island continued to be “heavily skewed” toward North America, with 77.9 per cent of arrivals coming from that continent last year, compared with 17.1 per cent out of Europe, while the Caribbean accounted for 3.4 per cent of visitors to the island.
“In the rationale for this important Tourism Linkages Programme, JAMPRO points to tourism’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product at 9.5 per cent in 2002,” he said, making note of the substantial tourism investment plans by major chains, primarily from Spain, which would see the addition of as many as 10,000 rooms during the next five years.
“This means considerable urgency in the pursuit of quantum improvement in economic linkages for tourism if the island is to capitalize on this window of opportunity and maximize the effect of hard-won foreign direct investment,” Dr. McNeill added.
He said further that global developments affecting tourism since the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, as well as local challenges, related to insufficient product development and well-documented socio-economic issues, primarily in respect of security, all of which have presented particular challenges for tourism.
“Notwithstanding, there have been measurable efforts to position ourselves for more and increased spin-offs from inflows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in tourism. In these, we have been guided in our policies by a clear, comprehensive vision for tourism as outlined in the National Industrial Policy and the Ministry of Industry and Tourism’s Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development in Jamaica,” the State Minister said.
Addressing tourism as a strategic cluster, Dr. McNeill explained that the government’s national industrial policy had identified physical infrastructural development, including roads, air links as well as the provision of security and training of personnel for the hospitality industry, as areas of emphasis.
“Diversification of the Jamaican tourism product, linkages with agriculture, manufacturing, craft, entertainment, sports, air and ground transportation, and information technology are among the prime areas identified as presenting prospects for enhanced linkages with tourism,” he told the gathering.
He pointed out that the Master Plan expanded on these areas, primarily in respect of local linkages to the tourist industry. “In addressing the critical matter of improving the competitiveness of the accommodation sector.strategic emphasis has been placed on addressing gaps and weaknesses in the product offering, through combination of FDI and local investment,” he said.
Dr. McNeill said the linkages seminar was both appropriate and timely as Jamaica was well positioned to push for accelerated development of tourism, a process to which stakeholder and national participation as a whole, was essential. “These efforts will be greatly enhanced by seminars such as this,” he stressed.
The aim of the two-day seminar is to highlight some of the key issues in fostering increased competitiveness of local firms, with particular emphasis on those which may have the opportunity to provide goods/services to the hotel sector. It also brings together experts in tourism and linkage creation as well as a panel of investors who will outline some of the specific requirements, which will have to be met.

JIS Social