Remarks by the Dr. Wykeham McNeill at the Jamaica Investment Forum 2012


SALUTATIONS:

·       Session Chairman – Mrs. Evelyn Smith;   

·       Ministerial Co-Host – The Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson;

·       Esteemed co-presenters –

o   Mr. Claude Duncan

o   Mr. Danny Hughes

o   Mr. Abel Matutes

·       Colleagues, Associates, Ladies and Gentlemen …

I wish to give my congratulations to JAMPRO and Compete Caribbean on the hosting of this Forum and the opportunity to highlight the outstanding investment opportunities that abound within Jamaica’s tourism industry.

 

THE QUESTION WE HAVE TO ASK IS WHY TOURISM INVESTMENT?

Well the UNWTO reports record worldwide Tourist Arrivals of 980 million for 2011. This is an increase of 4.4% over the previous year.  Although growth is expected to slow somewhat this year, international tourist arrivals are expected to increase by 3% and 4% to surpass the one billion mark.

Also we must remember that this industry is responsible for:

o   5% of the world’s GDP;

o   6% of total exports;

o   Average employment of one out of every 12 persons in both developed and developing economies.

o   And in 2010, international tourism generated US$919 billion in export earnings, this even though some markets were still in recovery mode.

 

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) figures show that travel and tourism’s total contribution to global GDP has grown by 21% in the last decade to US$5992 billion in 2011.

SO WHAT HAS BEEN JAMAICA’S PERFORMANCE IN TOURISM INVESTMENT?

Jamaica’s tourism sector has performed extremely well in terms of attracting investment, both local and overseas in the modern era.  Between the years 2000 and 2010, there was substantial FDI when some 7,000 rooms were built in Jamaica with the expectation of improved value-added by the industry and contribution to the economy from these activities.

As a matter of fact between the years 2006 to 2009 the FDI in tourism was nearly US$ 200 million per year.

 

WHAT ARE JAMAICA’S ADVANTAGES?

Jamaica’s has a number of well-recognized advantages in competing as an investment location, even in challenging times. These include:

o   Its geographical location within the hemisphere allowing strong air and sea links;

o   The island is blessed with unsurpassed beauty and outstanding natural attractions.

o   The island possesses vastly improved infrastructure in respect of its airports, seaports and road network;

o   It possesses some of the finest cruise ship ports in the hemisphere, including the new Falmouth Cruise Port.

o   Jamaica boasts a vibrant, internationally recognized culture, hospitable people, first-class accommodation and atrainable and well-exposed, work force;

o   And importantly, the Government is highly focused on policy initiatives for Information and Technology which seek to provide better ways to attract both Foreign Direct as well as Local Investment and enhance the conditions under which such investments can maximize growth for the island. To this end we are moving to create an environment that fosters investment by removing the bureaucratic hurdles that hamper investors.   

 

SO WHAT ARE SOME OF THE AREAS IN TOURISM THAT WE ARE FOCUSING ON FOR INVESTMENT

Opportunities or “low hanging fruits” for leveraging our traditional strengths as well as attracting investment to diversify the tourism product in Jamaica are numerous.  Among the priority areas identified are:

 

o   Health tourismwhich my colleague Minister will speak to in more detail;

o   Community tourism;

o   Nature and eco-tourism;

o   Entertainment and cultural tourism and sports tourism;

I will briefly highlight the investment profile on a few of these key areas:

 

Health Tourism:

The centuries-old tradition of health, or therapeutic travel, is enjoying tremendous resurgence internationally. We have great opportunities in this area including the refurbishing of two of Jamaica’s most famous spas, the Milk River Hotel and Spa in Clarendon and the Bath Fountain Hotel and Spa in St. Thomas. However, these and other health related facilities present on-going opportunities for real transformation into major attractions in the international health tourism market as well as the area of offshore health care. Minister Ferguson will expound on this.

 

Community Tourism has been much discussed but, by and large, has remained a step-child of the industry. Yet, this area both represents the potential for major impact on the total visitor experience and opportunities for investment initiatives at the broadest level. The policy framework is being developed to facilitate investment in this area. Our Ministry’s Draft Community Based Tourism Policy and Strategy is at the Green Paper Stage where it will be circulated and discussed at island-wide consultations. This World Bank funded project will do a great deal to bring opportunities in community tourism to the fore and foster investment.

Entertainment, Cultural and Sports Tourism     

There is no denying the fact that the rich output of our people has placed Jamaica on the world map of culture and played an inestimable role in the island’s promotion as a preferred visitor destination.  Yet the strength of our cultural output in music, dance, cuisine, literary and other art forms, as well as our record-shattering sporting performances have not, by any means, been fully explored or exploited. The fact that the Ministry is now responsible for Tourism AND Entertainment shows the commitment of the government to leveraging these synergies.

Aggressive use of the obvious link between tourism, entertainment and sports opens investment opportunities for entertainment complexes, recreational facilities and cultural venues that are unique to Jamaica. 

There is no better time than this Olympic year in concert with the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence for entrepreneurial minds to examine the events, tours and packages that can satisfy and stimulate the entertainment and education of visitors and local residents alike as we seek to further open up the competitive sports tourism market.

 

Incentives and legislation

The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment is also closely in tune with the Government of Jamaica’s determination to facilitate an ‘enabling environment’ for investment which includes:

·       further infrastructural development;

·       ensuring environmental protection;

·       the diversification and deepening of the product offering;

·       and continued human resource development for service enhancement and improved security.

There are some specific pieces of Legislation and/or outstanding Regulations that have been passed or are well on their way to being passed that will have a significant impact on the industry. Among them are the Casino Gaming Act 2010.

Another piece of legislation is Timeshare which continues to represent one of the most dynamic segments in international tourism products. Jamaica already has some existing or potential investments that will benefit from this such as Harmony Cove, AM Resorts and others which are conceptualized around a mixed-use development concept. Also some new and existing facilities have the potential to offer timeshare. 

There has been some criticism about the length of time it has taken for the legislation to be finalized. This is one of the issues that we are now moving to address and since assuming office I have instructed that the process be expedited. The new Timeshare legislation is now being drafted in alignment to Jamaica’s laws and institutional framework with the benefit of the best practices from other jurisdictions and will soon be carried to Cabinet.

Other significant issues in discussing the investment thrust for tourism include:

The Hotel Incentives Act (HIA) which has historically provided income tax, import duties and General Consumption Tax relief for new and expanding hotels, while in need of revision, cannot be viewed independent of on-going, comprehensive tax reform for our island, including the review of tax incentives. 

What I can say on all counts is that the determination to ensure that Jamaica’s tourism is competitive and cutting edge, with the required facilitation of continuous improvements and innovation is absolute.

And without venturing into the purview of the Hon Minister of Finance, I can say that ours is a commitment to ensuring that as a government we understand that to survive we have to have economic growth and that is dependent on investment. Tourism will have to play a vital role in this process which is why we have to ensure an enabling environment that encourages investment.

Ladies and gentlemen Jamaica is ripe for investment and our industry has continued to grow despite the global economic crisis. I encourage investors to come on-board and invest in the tourism sector here in Jamaica and we look forward to forging very strong and lucrative partnerships.

 

Thank you.

JIS Social