Ministers Jamming for Tourism Resilience Jamaica Style

Jamming to Jamaican tunes, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism had a reason to dance and celebrate today. Mastering Tourism Resilience !

A proud Minister of Tourism for Jamaica, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett is currently hosting the ongoing Tourism Resilience Celebration in Jamaica. He had a good reason to celebrate a new beginning for tourism after years of crisis and headaches. What is better than inviting participating fellow ministers to dance to tourism resilience?

No serious event can be without reggae, dancing, and happiness in a place like Jamaica. This makes Jamaica so special from any venue in the work. At the same time this island nation has been the home to tourism resilience throughout the worst crisis in tourism history- and with a man leading who showed the essence of resilience, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett

On a serious note, the Hon. Minister Bartlett presented his points to the participants.

Minister Bartlett said:

  • The vital role of tourism in the development of emerging economies is indisputable. This was underscored by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. When industry activity halted during the crisis, economies were decimated. Fast forward three years and we are witnessing a renaissance like never before as tourism proves its resilience, driving the post-pandemic recovery of national economies and global trade.  Here in Jamaica, this all-important industry has been powering economic growth for nine consecutive quarters, according to the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ)
  • The Caribbean has made the fastest recovery of any region in the world from the devastation of the pandemic, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).  As record-setting numbers of visitors flock to the Caribbean, most islands are reclaiming between 85% and 95% of total arrivals in 2019. This is a blessing for the region’s tourism-dependent economies where the industry is a major generator of taxes, employment, income and foreign exchange. It also augurs well for the restoration of investor confidence in this important industry.
  • In the Caribbean, tourism employs 2.4 million people and contributes some 13.9% of GDP making it the most tourism-reliant region in the world. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), eight out of the ten countries most dependent on tourism are from the region.  
  • In addition, tourism is the single largest generator of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean and is the sector receiving the most foreign direct investment(FDI). 
  • You can see, therefore, why the tourism industry must be made a priority for economic development.
  • Yet, even as we experience this successful rebound, we are merely scratching the surface of this industry’s vast potential. Investment, I believe, holds the key to unleashing Caribbean tourism’s full potential and building a sustainable and resilient industry.
  • This is why platforms such as this Global Tourism Resilience Conference, and today’s Investment Summit, in particular, are so vital.  To encourage collaboration and the exchange of ideas and best practices as well as address current economic and social issues affecting tourism in the Caribbean.  This in turn will help us to build a framework to foster greater sustainability and resilience in travel and tourism growth.
  • My philosophy behind regional development has always been that the future fortunes of Caribbean tourism lie in economic convergence between complementary economies.
  • It cannot be business as usual if the Caribbean intends to maintain its current post-pandemic growth trajectory.  It cannot be business as usual if we are serious about building a sustainable, resilient and inclusive regional tourism industry that benefits all of our citizens. Likewise, it cannot be business as usual if the Caribbean is to sustain its competitive advantage in the global tourism market.
  • It is within this context that it becomes essential that we create the framework for the sustainable and resilient growth of Caribbean tourism.


  • Before I touch on the wider Caribbean, let me first share the architecture behind Jamaica’s tourism success. It is based on broad objectives critical to building an inclusive, equitable and sustainable sector. These are:
    • Strengthening linkages with other sectors of the economy, particularly the agricultural and manufacturing sectors;
    • Boosting the benefits derived from the industry by locals and communities;
    • Promoting broader participation by all Jamaicans; and
    • Ensuring the safety, security, and sustainability of the natural and built environments.
  • Five pillars underpin these broad objectives as we seek double-digit tourism growth.  These are:
  • Identifying and aggressively targeting new markets;
  • Offering new products;
  • Increasing Investments;
  • Building new partnerships; and
  • Renewal of Human Capital.
  • Guided by our Blue Ocean Strategy, we are now capitalizing on Jamaica’s natural and cultural assets to revitalize our tourism product and attract a new customer segment – the premium adventure traveller. This customer is less risk-averse, less price-sensitive and more likely to spend locally.
  • We have shifted our strategic focus away from standardization to one of enhanced value creation through product differentiation and diversification.  We are uncovering hidden opportunities that will give us a competitive advantage.
  • Also, we are harnessing our culture and heritage to tell the authentic Jamaican story; music is being given pride of place as a more predominant and inclusive part of the visitor experience; and we are creating experiences to get visitors out of the hotels and into our communities.
  • In addition, we are training and building the capacity of our people to respond to an ever-evolving industry; renewing our focus on destination assurance; and providing technical and financial support for Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs), which contribute invaluably to the authenticity and totality of the visitor experience.  
  • Much-needed local and foreign investment has a critical role to play in the renewal of Jamaica’s tourism product. We, therefore, welcome the record wave of hotel investments in the tourism sector, which has seen some US$1.3 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) between 2015 and 2021; that is, some 30% of total FDI for the period.
  • Furthermore, new and existing investors are set to spend close to US$2 billion to add new rooms to our tourism product over the next four years. This will result in the addition of some 8,500 new rooms and more than 24,000 new part-time and full-time jobs, as well as at least 12,000 jobs for construction workers.
  • We continue to work tirelessly to put in place the strategies, infrastructure, and services to support investments and continued growth in the tourism sector.
  • We are investing heavily in infrastructural development (e.g., the $1 billion comprehensive upgrade of Montego Bay’s popular Hip Strip); certifying and upskilling our industry workers; diversifying our product through the five networks of the Tourism Linkages Network – Gastronomy; Sport & Entertainment; Health & Wellness, Shopping and Knowledge; and aggressively marketing Brand Jamaica in new and traditional markets with exceptional results, as evidenced by our record visitor numbers.
  • The latter is being supported by an aggressive airlift strategy out of gateways in Canada, the United States and Europe as well as out of regional and non-traditional markets.  For the period January to December 2022, there were 5,891 additional flights delivering 1,137,668 more seats. Also, in a historic first for Jamaica and the Caribbean, Emirates Airlines, the largest airline in the Gulf Coast Countries (GCC), is now selling seats to Jamaica. This arrangement opens gateways from the Middle East, Asia and Africa to Jamaica and the rest of the region.
  • As we position the industry as a leading catalyst of economic development and inclusion, we are strengthening linkages with other sectors of the economy, particularly the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, with great success. Of note, the Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) project continues to benefit the 1,104 farmers and 242 buyers in the hospitality industry who are registered on the platform. Between January and December 2022 produce sold on the website totalled 1,219,853 kg with a value of $330,127,101.00. 
  • This is just one of the many initiatives of the Tourism Linkages Network being used to strengthen the linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy, which has resulted in contracts worth millions of dollars for Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs).


  • For the most part, Jamaica’s framework for revitalizing its tourism landscape could be translated to the wider Caribbean as we seek to identify strategies and actions to mobilize investment to create a more sustainable and equitable regional tourism sector.  As I mentioned previously, even with the region’s successes, we are seeing merely the tip of the iceberg of the possibilities for the industry.
  • It is therefore incumbent on us to collaborate to create a healthy investment climate that maximizes the industry’s vast untapped potential. Investment is critical to continued recovery, improving productivity, and thereby increasing the competitiveness of Caribbean destinations. We can achieve this by placing economic emphasis on the areas where the region has a competitive advantage and innovative niches that will propel the industry forward.  
  • We must play to our strengths – a geographically diverse, multicultural product; we are on the doorstep of the world’s richest market (USA); we are a magnet for FDI; and we have a wealthy 9-million strong Caribbean Diaspora eager to invest in their respective homelands.  This is where the real impact lies.
  • MULTI-DESTINATION TOURISM: Multi-destination tourism is the answer to sustaining tourism in the Caribbean and a regional multi-destination framework is on track with Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Panama and Cuba as players.
  • This new architecture revolves around the idea of visitors being able to seamlessly travel to two, three or more geographically proximate countries during their vacations at attractive package prices. This is a particularly attractive option for long-haul travellers. We anticipate that this arrangement will expand the economic benefits of the tourism sector to approximately 33 million people.
  • However, a multi-destination arrangement will only be possible with viable, sustainable intra-regional air services to support it.  Air connectivity is at the heart of an effective tourism convergence in the Caribbean. This is one of our greatest challenges together with the prohibitive cost of intra-regional travel and the continued restrictions to free movement.
  • In November 2022, the region’s newest airline, Arajet, commenced direct flights between Santo Domingo and Kingston, which is part of a broader and wider strategy of integrating the Caribbean more, and of also creating backward connections between Central America and South America. We are also in talks with the four big airlines – Qatar, Etihad, Emirates and Saudia, which will be a real game changer for the Caribbean.
  • Connectivity, both by air and sea, is critical in supporting the region’s economic growth in general and tourism growth in particular. It is an area ripe for investment. 
  • HEALTH & WELLNESS TOURISM: More and more people are travelling far and wide in search of health benefits, both real and promised, and COVID-19 has heightened this demand. The global health and wellness market is valued at some $4.4 trillion and is predicted to grow an average of 10% annually through 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute.
  • The Caribbean’s natural resources and geographic location make the region well-positioned to be a leader in this niche tourism market.   It has some of the finest natural spas in the world, including Jamaica’s Milk River and Bath Fountain, St. Lucia’s Sulphur Springs and Dominica’s Screw’s Natural Sulphur Spa.  In addition, natural plants and herbs endemic to the Caribbean abound to fuel the development of the Caribbean’s nascent nutraceutical industry; especially the creation of spa products (body scrubs, lotions, skin care products, etc.) for the health and wellness tourism industry.
  • This is a sub-sector that is ripe for investment as now, more than ever, the demand for health and wellness tourism is at a premium in the world.  I appeal to financial institutions and investors to take note of this viable investment option and capitalize on the opportunity.
  • TOURISM LINKAGES:  The tourism sector is also multi-dimensional, cutting across many spheres, sectors and boundaries, which provides considerable scope for collaboration and cooperation at the regional level in a wide range of areas including manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, human resource development and the creative industries.
  • By building out capacity at every link in that value chain, both nationally and regionally, we can ensure that tourism benefits a wider cross-section of people and supports home-grown businesses.
  • Additionally, while we welcome FDI as the bedrock of tourism investment, we must do a lot more to encourage local investors and the development of the small business sector if we intend to ensure real growth. That is, not just in arrivals but economic growth that enhances the well-being of our people.
  • It requires a new architecture that focuses on the supply side and the retention of the tourism dollar within the region.  We must target the types of investment that will allow us to do this. The retention of the dollar globally is averaging 20 cents; in the case of the Caribbean we are between 15 cents at the low end and 50 cents.  We must plug these leakages (primarily from the imports of the goods and services that the industry requires) by boosting tourism linkages with other sectors of the economy. Thus, earning and retaining more of the visitor spend. 
  • We must build out the capacity of the supply side, which provides for the consumption patterns of our visitors, within the recipient countries so that the wealth of tourism can reach the ordinary man in our communities.
  • There is a broad range of investment opportunities that exist in this area. Imagine if you will, that all the beds, sheets, pots, pans, kettles, and food needed for the regional tourism industry were produced and supplied regionally. This would help to plug the leakages so we can earn more and retain more of the visitor spend. 
  • Consequently, we must pay more attention to building the capacity of Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs), which drive 80% of tourism activity but, unfortunately, benefit from 20% of the wealth from the sector.
  • Jamaica initiated the highly successful Tourism Linkages Network (TLN) within the Ministry to strengthen sustainable linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy. However, we are seeking to expand linkages beyond the local economy by moving to develop Jamaica as a supplies hub for the local tourism sector and other tourism-dependent nations in the region. The hub will focus on training and certification of tourism workers, serving as suppliers for hotels, cruises, airlines as well as resilience and technology support.
  • Plans are well underway. We have already had preliminary discussions with JAMPRO, the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority and a private logistics company as we lay the framework to make this Tourism Supplies Hub a reality.
  • BLUE ECONOMY: According to the World Bank, coastal and marine-based industries contribute upwards of US$2.5 trillion to the global economy. The Blue Economy is emerging on the global scene as a powerful new concept for sustainable development built on the oceans’ economic activities based on balancing three objectives: the economic development of the maritime sectors, social equity, and environmental sustainability. 
  • Small Island Developing States (SIDS) control 30 per cent of all oceans and seas. Yet, despite being surrounded by the sea (the basis of most of our tourism models), we are not maximizing the marine resources to create sustainable systems that benefit island nations and coastal communities. There are investment opportunities, ranging from marinas; tourism and ecotourism centres; sports, fishing and cultural villages; renewable marine energy, and marine transport.
  • As we seek partnerships for the sustainable management of our ocean resources, I want to point out that the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) has committed to providing dedicated support to the tourism sector with a focus on sustainable and regenerative tourism. Within the framework of FITUR 2023 in Spain recently, CAF organized a meeting with Caribbean Ministers of Tourism during which ideas and experiences were shared on developing a tourism model based on community development, resilient infrastructures, the preservation of biodiversity, skills development and capacity-building.  


  • I have by no means exhausted the list of potential areas of investment; however, there is no doubt that the Caribbean has significant investment opportunities in accommodation, attractions, travel technology, agro-tourism, green projects, nutraceuticals, manufacturing as well as the development of supporting infrastructure that improves the visitor experience.
  • These investment prospects must be leveraged to achieve long-term economic growth in the Caribbean as we work together to create an attractive and enabling climate for investors. As a region, we will always be stronger together than we are apart. However, this synergy must be based on shared goals, inclusive growth and better living standards for our people, while protecting our environment.
  • In so doing, we can mobilize private investment for Caribbean tourism while staying true to the UNWTO’s definition of Sustainable Development: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

Thank you.

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