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Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, says in order for Jamaica to have a strong tourism industry capable of driving national development, the people have to become "owners" of the industry and not just bystanders.

"The story of tourism is one of great struggle, resilience, pride and strength and it is a story I think, every Jamaican, both here and in the Diaspora can relate to, because it is our story. With the myriad of attractions, both built and natural, our vast cultural offerings and our appealing heritage, it is still the heart of the people of Jamaica," the Minister said.

"That is the essence of the success of Jamaica's tourism sector now and into the future.  As a Government, we believe in the people of Jamaica," he added.

Dr. McNeill was delivering the keynote address at the opening of the International Conference on Business, Hospitality and Tourism Management, at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, on October 10.

The Minister said that the Government is cognizant of the need to put in place the necessary mechanisms which will facilitate a "bottom up" communication network, in order to achieve buy-in and ownership of the tourism sector by the people of Jamaica.   

"Our vision of the tourism sector is to create a partnership among the community, industry and Government as we look beyond our 50 years of independence. The foundations have been laid and we are making solid headway in accomplishing our collective goal of making this sector the true driver of economic development for our nation,” the Minister emphasised.                                                                                      

Dr. McNeill argued that the tourism sector has realised its importance to Jamaica from the perspective of foreign exchange earnings, employment and the crucial role it has played in the development of other sectors of the Jamaican economy, and that in going forward, “all citizens must unite with Government in ensuring the industry’s success."

"We have to understand that it is not just about bringing visitors to Jamaica, but building linkages, especially with manufacturing and agriculture and other sectors, to ensure that as a country, we earn more from them by retaining those earnings in Jamaica,” the Minister said.

"We also have to understand that this is a continuously evolving industry and we need to remain internationally competitive.  While we seek to maintain our position in our main markets, we must diversify and aggressively develop new markets in Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Far East,” he added.

"The conference, which will be held from October 10 to 12, is being hosted by the College of Business and Management of the University of Technology, in collaboration with the University of Delaware, USA. The theme of the conference is: ‘Resilience, Rethinking and Rebounding’.

Participants are drawn from leading business and hospitality professionals locally and internationally. They will present and discuss global and local issues relating to expansion, development and restructuring of the business and tourism sectors.