I am pretty sure that by now you must have heard the maxim popularized by the late American advice columnist Ann Landers: ‘Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them’
The problem with maxims of course is that we fail to maximize the value of the wisdom inherent in them, even though we (often quite loudly) applaud them.
I look at Jamaica, and, like you, I see the many gaps in what ‘ought to be’, and what now exists, and I see an amazing treasure trove of glorious opportunities. and this is not just wishful thinking, ‘spin’ or giving in to ‘feel-good’ talk. It is anchored firmly in a deep appreciation on deep truth ensconced in the Ann Landers maxim. This is because hard work is another way to measure value added. It also means finding the most efficient ways to connect the dots of our collective potentials.
Today, I am here to invite you to catch a glimpse of the hard work to which I have committed myself, along with my team – effective right after I uttered the last words in taking my oath of office – ‘so help me God’.
Since we are talking vision, this implies clarity. And I hope by now it is crystal clear that I will walk the talk along three main planks to convert these opportunities into greater wealth for every Jamaican. As the Honourable Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions over the past few weeks – while not everybody in this country will be rich.there is absolutely no reason why anybody should be poor.
Our inherent hospitality as a people and our rich culture have handed us significant comparative and competitive advantages globally – thus tourism remains our best hope out of poverty.
I have said it before, and I can assure you I will say it many more times – the first plank to support our return to steady and self sustaining growth in tourism is marketing.
Central to any meaningful marketing thrust is product development. It is the enhancement of the visitor experience that will ensure the growing numbers in arrivals, the robustness of the repeat business and of course the reason why we all do business – increased earnings.
This afternoon I want to remind and reassure you about our commitment to several aspects of product development, outlined in the tourism chapter of our manifesto.
In the educators tradition of anchoring all presentations to the immediate environment – let me start with the issue of cruise shipping. You know, it is very easy to get complacent when things are going relatively well – and I know that, which is why I have asked myself on several occasions, and even more frequently now that I have been given the privilege to serve you as Minister of Tourism. how can we maximize our earnings from a segment of the market which put us on top of the world last year, rather than to assume that it will continue to be sufficiently buoyant (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Even as Jamaica was named Top Cruise Shipping Destination in the world last year, I had the niggling feeling that we could do so much better. First is good, but still only relative. BEST is absolute and I believe that is where we all want to go.
Take for instance the current estimated per capita earning of US$83 from cruise visitors. We firmly believe that can double within the medium term, but modestly, we are aiming for an intake of US$150.00 per cruise ship passenger by the end of 2010. That is not just the vision – that is the plan, and you can hold us to that.
The thing though is that improved earnings in the cruise ship market can only come from enhancements in our shore-side offerings. I am speaking here about attractions – and I think you already know how I feel about that. The income will remain flat, moderate at best if we do not rapidly diversify the occupational offerings to our visitors – particularly those who are hitting multiple destinations and who have very little time to process the decision to purchase. Our offerings must precipitate this purchase by their irresistibility.
One quaint and irresistible feature of the Jamaican experience that is fast disappearing is the train ride. I am happy to assure you that we are now back on track with that. In fact we are already deep in discussions with Appleton Estates to resuscitate the railway between St. Elizabeth and Montego Bay.
This will not just make a whole slew of attractions more accessible from the Tourism capital, it will also open up a new world of mutually beneficial contact between remote villages /hamlets/ communities in St. James and a steady stream of visitors – local and international tourists who can make a distinct difference in the quality of life to these Jamaicans.
What would our tourism product be without genuine Jamaican craft? Well, as we have already stated – we want to open that up and to enrich the offering, moving from mere craft markets to artisan villages.
This includes plans for the establishment of craft development and design centres, facilitating the transfer of skills not only in terms of the creative output, but also in marketing and merchandising. The vision is to facilitate the thrill of taking home ‘the genuine article’ handcrafted in Jamaica – by a Jamaican, and where possible, finished on spot.
Of course we cater to a wide cross section of visitors who also demand the world-leading brands at the upper end of the spectrum. In this regard I will have more to tell you when I have met with the In-Bond Merchants to hammer out a plan for the way forward in this sub-sector which has not been paid the kind of attention that it needs to realize its true potential.
We envisage that this will increase the ripples to further enhance the reputation of Jamaica as a cruise ship destination of choice, resulting in stops by even more vessels at our ports, further boosting our potential income earning capacity. It is what we marketing types refer to as the enhancement of the ‘value chain’. and we cannot afford a single weak link.
With this in mind, we are already very busy at work ensuring that the anticipated increase in arrivals does not outstrip the requisite improvements in infrastructure. We simply cannot afford to desecrate the very environment which holds the power to enrich us, by disregarding appropriate carrying capacities. I am happy to advise that I have already met with the new Minister of Works, and we are united in our view that the problems on the Bogue main Road must me solved as a matter of great priority. This is more than just talk, as the designs are being undertaken as I speak.
The third plank to ensure quantum growth and continuity is of course investment (both local and overseas). The Tourism Enhancement Fund is currently fine tuning plans for massive resort development planning, complete with greater security. This is to inspire confidence that any investment will be well protected.
Then there is the Palmyra investment that at more than US$2M is bound to change the face of this city. It is a vote of confidence that is bound to be contagious.
We must also invest in the future of the industry through training, and this Thursday, September 27 – World Tourism Day we will move even closer to our commitment to deliver a hospitality training institution in the West. Our lead partner the Spanish government, through Ambassador Jesus Silva will call on my offices in Kingston to share with us the results of studies conducted into the feasibility of this project, based on their own models in Spain.
Yes friends, there is much work ahead, but the beauty in that fact is that there is so much opportunity – so much potential for personal, professional and economic growth.
As you might have seen in the press, I hit the ground running because I have already been in full flight before even sitting in the chair at the Ministry of Tourism.
For those who might have missed the announcement a couple of weeks ago – I intend to spend much more time in the capital of Tourism than any other Minister has done, while not neglecting the national picture. That is why we are now in the process of setting up an office in Montego Bay so that we can be much more accessible to the key operatives in the trade – and that means every single member of the Montego Bay Business community and beyond.
Another commitment I can give you is that I will not be given to long speeches, so with that I thank you for your attention, and invite you to join me in the field to reap the opportunities that are yet untapped, and to increase the yield on those which have already borne some fruit.
Many blessings – ONE Love.

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