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Director General in the Ministry of Development, Dennis Morrison has said that investments in tourism, which are about to take place, would give local firms yet another opportunity to do the things that are necessary to improve the competitiveness of their businesses.
“In other words, we have always been saying that access to market is a very important part of building a business on a predictable basis. We are going to be given the opportunity by virtue of this expansion to have the markets brought right onto our shore,” he added.
Mr. Morrison was speaking at the opening of JAMPRO’s tourism linkages seminar at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, yesterday (February 22).
Addressing the topic: ‘Economic development implications for local industries in the Tourism cluster’, the Director General said that countries demanding goods and services from Jamaica would be looking for international standards, and would be matching local prices against those which they could receive elsewhere.
“Therefore, we have to do business in a way that is going to be competitive. These opportunities give us yet another occasion on which we can strive to improve our businesses,” he said.
Mr. Morrison pointed out that over the next few years, tourism projects would make a very significant impact on the Jamaican economy. This impact, he said, would first be felt in terms of the level of investment and resulting foreign exchange coming into the country to finance those investments.
“But if we were simply to leave it at that, I think we would have lost a significant opportunity to really make those investments give this economy a momentum that can last for many years to come and indeed can help to lay the foundation for sustainable development,” he emphasized.
He pointed out that although the tourism sector operated within a market economy, attracting investment and building a sustainable industry required co-ordination. “It is not going to happen by chance. An effort has to be made to bring people together, to network, to identify specific things that are to be done and to organize the economic system to make them happen,” he said.
Mr. Morrison noted that over the decades, tourism had become a much broader experience than simply sun, sand and food. “People who visit our country from the United States or from Europe no longer come just for the sun, the sand and the beach and to eat the foods. They come to have an experience that is fully Jamaican,” he said.
This meant that in addition to the obvious spin-offs in the various sectors, such as construction and transportation, an expanded demand for a range of other goods and services locally had been generated, he added.
He made note of areas such as agro-processing and health and wellness. The latter, he said was perhaps the most significant new economic activity the 21st Century had seen, in terms of interest and rate of growth. “So people travel partly for that and people travel to be entertained in many other ways,” the Director General said.
Mr. Morrison stressed that with the wider focus on opportunities in manufacturing, health and entertainment, it was “very important that we bring together players, both local and foreign, to engage in discussions first and then the business activities that will follow”.
He explained that the role of the financial sector would be very critical in facilitating local businesses to improve their competitiveness, and urged entities to reduce interest rates. “The economy could not grow as it should if the financial sector is not going to behave in the way that the market is required to behave,” he stressed.
In his address, State Minister for Industry and Tourism, Dr. Wykeham McNeill said that the strategic new vision for sustainable tourism development demanded harmony with the culture and interests of Jamaicans, and wider distribution of benefits across the society.
He added that the strategic plans and programmes of both the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) were reflective of the trends in tourism, and the need to broaden the opportunities for linkages in the sector.
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.