I am sure you’ve heard the saying “I’d rather eat at home, because only then will I be sure where the food is coming from.”
I hope no one here is ‘freaking out’ because my opening statement at the launch of a week to celebrate dining out seems terribly inappropriate. Just stay with me – I promise you, this is not leading where you might think.
Certainly, this statement could be the bane of any restaurateur, but thankfully, almost every Jamaican restaurant that I have personally set foot into, has that atmosphere and ambience of home – And thanks to annual events like Restaurant Week, this luxury can be ours at affordable at prices.
Jamaica, and everything Jamaican is now hot property globally, thanks to our vibrant culture & resilient people.
This is why I believe that tourism is essentially the marketing of our culture, of which food is a very big part. I dare say, in many ways – a central part.
When I think about my vision for tourism in Kingston in the medium term, I see the ambitions of every business savvy restaurateur who will step up to the plate and serve up – I see a partnership. It is the ultimate representation of brand Jamaica – true blue hospitality. [I hope by now all your staff have been Team Jamaica trained and certified by TPDCo. – OK, show of hands not necessary]
In terms of our core business – tourism: Save for a marginal slide this year, destination Jamaica has been doing quite well in terms of visitor arrivals, and moderately well in earnings.
However, I remain convinced that we can significantly improve our score. That is why we are boldly aiming for the following targets:
a) An increase in stopover visitor arrivals to 3 Million by 2010
b)2 Million Cruise visitor arrivals by the end of 2008 [Last year, we had 3M arrivals in all]
c) A per capita increase in cruise passenger spend from US$ 83 to US$150 by 2010
You might be asking why I am here ‘spouting hardcore tourism figures’ at an event like this, but the truth is – it’s the perfect place.
Restaurateurs come at the end of a long value chain which begins with the irresistible Jamaican culinary heritage. Between the ploughshare and the cutlery is a lot experience and TLC – delivered at the back end as the complement to cherished moments of pride, celebration or simply rejuvenation.
By the time it gets to you – the Jamaican experience is priceless, whether wrapped up in a Mexican fajita, marinated in pimento or staked out on a grill.
Fine dining is contagious – nothing invites you to ‘dig in’ at the table like the image of your host caught up in the splendour of a fine repast.
Nothing expresses hospitality like being invited to ‘break bread’ with the family. Similarly, I believe that nothing will be more valuable in the long run like when Jamaicans begin to truly enjoy the fine restaurants in this city, and invite house guests to join them. We look forward to this new wave, which we know will engulf our visitors with magnified intensity.
More visitors will be encouraged to step out in Kingston without fear and join their Jamaican family in dining on the town.
Typically we think of how to get the guests staying in various types of accommodations ’round town to get out and try new things – to shop, visit heritage sites, and of course to dine. However, I want you to dream with me – not just any idle pipe dream, but more like a vision – that Kingston will once again become a vibrant stop for cruise liners.
As we currently know it, cruise visitors “pass through” Ocho Rios and Montego Bay but I want to see Kingston get to a point where we offer a one-of-a-kind experience from an exciting home port city for cruise travelers who are looking for efficient and world-class services before and after their cruise.into Kingston!
Home porting is not a novel idea. It simply is a minor addition to something we have known over the years.
It means we can lure cruise shippers into Kingston city and get them to stay overnight.
What does that mean for Kingston? More heads-in-beds!
More heads in beds means not only dinner at a local restaurant for that evening for which the visitor overnights, but breakfast the following morning as well.
But where will we get the coffee and the eggs and the plantains, fruits and juices from? Right here in Jamaica. In the case of Bed & Breakfast accommodations – there are at least two other meals and snacks that must be delivered according to the dictates of our visitors.
I am enormously encouraged by the drive and zeal that I sense from out many local farmers, as domestic agriculture has posted a strong recovery after the hurricanes and with the prospects for growth on the horizon, I say good things are ahead.
So with Kingston as a Home Port, the current;
– The 28% increase in Papaya Production could quadruple with the demand for more fruit salads, right?
– And the current 146% increase in plantain production could increase dramatically as more overnighters demand breakfast. You get the picture.
Since as an authority our marketing strategies will be geared at attracting higher per capita income visitors, our Kingston tourists should have more money to spend with us, so we better put ourselves at a place where we have what to sell to them, especially food.
This whole idea of home porting has forced me to think about the jobs and earnings that are deliverable through our ‘value added,’ not just by the traffic of bodies through our cities, but tourists who are experiencing Jamaica in every good way possible.What does all of this mean?
Jobs.jobs.JOBS! Ultimately it means a better quality of life and a catalyst for the reduction in crime. which is itself a further fillip to prosperity.
As the government in waiting, we promised to shepherd the county towards more jobs and a better quality of life – and we do not intend to eat our words . We just have to keep doing the obvious, the usual and the ordinary in extraordinary ways!
I want to use this opportunity as a ‘buy Jamaican’ plug. and not out of any fuzzy, misplaced notion of nationalism, but as sound business decisions. More restaurateurs must not only to locate themselves in the tourism value chain, but also appreciate the comparative advantage of local farm produce, because of the wholesomeness of the produce, as dictated by an increasingly health conscious market.
How about adding value to your neighbour’s pocket, and to the collective national kitty while adding value to your life by eating organically grown foods?
It also means that just as China has a comparative advantage for rice, we should maximize our comparative advantages in uniquely Jamaican food preparation of healthful options such as our fabulous range of tubers (yams, potatoes, dasheen etc). Another way to circulate the wealth right here in Jamaica.
If you trace the value chain from field to the table, you realise how much good foods adds to the enriched visitor experience that could lead return guests and more referrals.and as you know, nothing goes to market quite like a good story. When the people come to your restaurants, treat them well get them talking (especially when spurred on by spirit filled libation).you will be glad you did.
As Minister of Tourism, I am keen to enhancing the diversity of satellite and sub-sectors in this economy-leading trade, such as agro processing for local consumption and for export. On the food side we are even talking festivals, submerged in rich heritage and rituals.
And then there are publications. the proliferation of Food Sections in national papers – one of them spawning the now internationally acclaimed glossy ‘Jamaican Eats’… which ‘sexified’ Jamaican food – u ever see a gourmet fry-dumplin’? Congrats to editor/publisher Grace Cameron, designer Heather Kong and the rest of the team.
Then there is ‘Kingston’ a feisty little number, produced by a bright young set of entrepreneurs who recognize the charm and value of this pulsating if controversial city – billed as the ‘heartbeat of Jamaica’. Ian Coke and his tight team of young professionals have created their own jobs strictly on the social capital of our capital city – this includes the range of world class restaurants which will be on show next month.
One of the things I want to ensure happens during my incumbency is that Kingston becomes a truly first-class city in terms of tourism – and on its own terms. Kingston can never be a Montegio Bay, a Port Antonio or a Mandeville – nor should it want to be.
We already have the originals on the same little rock. Kingston is the only place that can host events like the one we are launching this morning, because only Kingstonians have the panache to “carry it off” the really super sized events that require so much personnel, servicing so much excitement within a limited land space.
It is more than high time that Kingston’s cultural bravado and vibrant nightlife be converted to sustained hard currency inflows from visitors coming from near and far. Time for Kingston to ‘come in from the cold’. This is where events like Kingston Restaurant Week come in. Every new city I have been to in my leisure time, a part of the “things to do” is to go to the restaurants. Yes, food is good but it is usually more than that, it is the experience.
It is the fare, the d

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