By Linda S. Hohnholz, EturboNews
Jamaica Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, has painted a picture of Jamaica’s tourism industry as a sector booming with investment and arrivals as it emerges stronger and more resilient from the fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an upbeat Sectoral Presentation to Parliament yesterday (April 5), Mr. Bartlett declared that: “By the end of 2023, the number of visitors to Jamaica is predicted to reach 4.1 million, with 1.6 million cruise passengers, 2.5 million stopover arrivals, and US$4.2 billion in revenue.”
He said the stage has been set with a number of initiatives that have been put in place with some already showing positive results. A Tourism Strategy and Action Plan (TSAP) has been devised to help boost the competitiveness of the destination and products, enhance resilience, as well as develop and deploy mechanisms to promote innovation and entrepreneurship within the sector. The TSAP is to be finalized during this financial year.
Concurrently, implementation of the Blue Ocean Strategic Framework introduced last year, will continue guiding data gathering on the shifting preferences of visitors, while providing for suitable accommodations and experiences, ensuring suitable governance arrangements, and critically, train a first-class workforce to share world-leading goods and services with visitors.
Despite the challenges faced in the industry, Mr. Bartlett said the investment climate was booming with Jamaica experiencing its largest hotel and resort development expansion in any single year. “A total of $2 billion will be invested to bring 8,500 rooms on stream over the next five to ten years, creating some 24,000 part-time and full-time jobs and at least 12,000 jobs for construction workers,” he outlined.
Currently under construction are the 2,000-room Princess Resort in Hanover, nearly 2,000 rooms in the multi-faceted Hard Rock Resort development consisting of three other hotel brands; just under 1,000 rooms being built by Sandals and Beaches in St. Ann.
Additionally, the hotel infrastructure will be boosted by the 1,000-room Viva Wyndham Resort north of Negril, RIU Hotel in Trelawny with approximately 700 rooms, Secrets Resort in Richmond St. Ann, with around 700 rooms and Bahia Principe undertaking a massive expansion by its parent company, Grupo Piñero, out of Spain.
Minister Bartlett expressed delight that 90 percent of planned tourism investments have remained on track, citing this as “a huge vote of confidence from our investors in Brand Jamaica.”
He posited that these developments in the tourism industry, “will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the economy and directly benefit thousands of Jamaicans,” adding that, “at least 12,000 construction workers, multiple building contractors, engineers, project managers, and a variety of other specialists will be needed to assure the timely completion of these projects.” Also, thousands of tourism workers must be trained in areas such as management, food and beverage services, housekeeping, tour guiding, and reception.
The development thrust also includes continuation of the upgrading of Negril in keeping with a Destination Management Plan that is to be finalized in this financial year. Mr. Bartlett said investments envisaged in 13 projects will ensure that Negril keeps pace with or even surpasses similar destinations in the region. Marquee projects include a town center and beach park, a craft market, a farmer’s market, and a fishing village.
On the island’s eastern end, a premier sustainable destination plan is unfolding for St. Thomas, that will allow visitors and Jamaicans alike to increasingly enjoy the unique ecosystems and cultural heritage of the parish. The Tourism Destination Development and Management Plan for St. Thomas as the new frontier, will see approximately US$205 million in public investment and more than twice that amount in private investment.
Commencing this fiscal year, the Ministry of Tourism will develop Rocky Point Beach, establish way-finding stations in Yallahs, rehabilitate the road to Bath Fountain Hotel, as well as leverage strategic partnerships to develop heritage sites such as Fort Rocky and the Morant Bay Monument while other arms of government undertake significant upgrades to the road and water pipeline networks.