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Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, says a special unit is to be established within the Ministry to direct the development of linkages with other Ministries and agencies, in an effort to boost provisions within the sector.

Addressing a recent Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank, Dr. McNeill said an advisory committee, comprising GraceKennedy’s Chief Executive Officer, Don Wehby; Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) President, Evelyn Smith; and Financial Analyst, Ralston Hyman, was set up earlier this year, to assist in guiding the formation of the unit, which is expected to be established early in 2013.

The overall undertaking is being headed by Permanent Secretary, Jennifer Griffiths.

Minister McNeill said that the setting up of the unit is to ensure that Jamaica can gain the maximum benefit from the tourism industry, which has welcomed more than two million stopover and cruise ship visitors so far this year.

This, he said, by encouraging increased expenditure by visitors, through the provision of more local products and services.

“So, we have been working very hard on the linkages. Primarily, we have been focusing on agriculture and manufacturing, which are…two main industries that benefit from it (tourism). Of course, we…recognize that there are others – the entertainment sector, the transport sector, and many others, but we have been dealing with these,” he outlined.

Dr. McNeill said that as part of the process meetings have been held with stakeholders, including the JHTA, with the most recent consultation held in Kingston last week.

“We had a frank discussion. We looked at the concerns, and we discussed the way going forward and I think the meeting was very successful and it takes (us)…one step closer,” he stated.

The consultative approach, he pointed out, is to ensure the stakeholders’ full input in creating a process that will benefit all interests.

“The great advantage I have, right now, is the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, are working very closely with us. We are working with some of the groups in agriculture (and) we are working with the manufacturers; so there is a lot of input,” he stated.

“What we are finding is that everybody is excited to work in the best interest of Jamaica and the best way to do that is to continue working with these…organizations, private sector and otherwise, and following their advice,” he stated.

Minister McNeill informed that some of the recommendations already proposed include, establishing an e-commerce platform, and developing certain information flows, so that manufacturers for example, will know what the needs of the tourism industry are “and the needs that we are going to have, going forward."

“Information also has to go to the tourism sector on what is available in the manufacturing sector; so there is that information flow. And then, out of that, what you will then start to see are the possibilities, because we will see things that we don’t have that, maybe, the tourism sector needs, and then you will have the manufacturers being able to invest in that. We have to ensure that we can maximize the effect of those visitors that we bring to the economy of Jamaica.” Dr. McNeill stated.