My fellow Jamaicans, I’m extremely happy to address you today September 27, which is being celebrated as World Tourism Day all across the globe. This internationally recognized day is organized annually by the United Nations World Tourism Organization to promote the benefits of tourism globally.
This year’s theme is Tourism – Linking Cultures and as Jamaicans, we understand very well the linkages of cultures. Our motto, Out of Many, One People, is testament to Jamaica’s trait as an extraordinary melting pot of diverse cultures and people. And World Tourism Day is a time to celebrate tourism’s unique power in connecting the world; bringing together the nations and cultures of all continents.
Each year, millions of travelers explore new places and encounter members of diverse communities. This exposure is clearly a catalyst in building tolerance, and fosters a genuine concern for one another.
For us, World Tourism Day is also a time to underscore the enormous importance of tourism for Jamaica. Last week, at our premier Jamaica Product Exchange trade show, I announced that despite the global economic crisis and the many other challenges we currently face, Jamaica’s visitor arrival figures continue to climb. Between January and August this year, we welcomed approximately 2.1 million visitors, representing a 5.7 percent increase in total visitors compared with the same period last year. Up to the end of August, Jamaica earned US$1.48 billion in tourism revenue, which represents a 3.4 percent increase over the US$1.432 billion we earned for the same period in 2010. Cruise arrivals also jumped by 13.6 percent between January and August.
What does all of this mean for Jamaica? It means a better Jamaica: tourism means economic growth; tourism means development; and tourism means jobs.
As we stand with the rest of the world today to commemorate World Tourism Day, let us reflect on what we can do to strengthen our natural resources by taking continued pride in our culture—a culture that millions of visitors are drawn to experience annually. Our destination is unlike any other. Here in Jamaica, we have an extraordinary range of spectacular features that set us apart from our competitors in the global tourism marketplace. It is against this background that we continue to develop our heritage tourism and community based tourism offerings to meet the growing need among visitors for more authentic cultural experiences. We are presently finalizing our Community Based Tourism Policy and Strategy and when this is completed it will not only provide a framework for the development of this sub-sector but also fuel job creation, and the economic empowerment of many Jamaicans. The introduction of more culture yards and the hosting of local festivals within communities will also result in more of our tourism earnings being retained locally.
On World Tourism Day, let’s be proud of Brand Jamaica, and of how the world views our beauty—the beauty of our land most certainly, but even more, our own special beauty as Jamaicans.
Let’s give continued recognition to our culture—to our arts, our music, our cuisine—and to all the things that make Jamaica unique.
Your support for our tourism sector is of prime importance to Jamaica’s future. I’m sure you’ve heard me say before, tourism is about partnerships. Moving forward, it’s critical for us to work together as partners, acknowledging the importance of tourism as the cornerstone of our economy and our future.
Thank you. One Love!