Published in Travel Wire News (travelwirenews.com)
TOURISM stakeholders say a collective approach is needed to strengthen Jamaica’s tourism product in order to provide an opportunity for significant expansion of the industry.
President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Omar Robinson says while tourism has suffered temporary fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it remains one of Jamaica’s most resilient sectors in driving economic growth and development.
Speaking recently at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank at the agency’s regional offices in Montego Bay, St James, Robinson argued that it is time for Jamaicans to “realise the importance of tourism” and partner with stakeholders to surmount the current challenges in a bid to harness tourism’s impressive potential to advance.
“Unless you are in tourism, you don’t really understand or appreciate the value that tourism brings to the country. It’s time for Jamaicans to wake up and realise how important tourism is. I agree that we have to diversify, but we also need to strengthen tourism,” the JHTA president said.
“How do we strengthen it? How do we make it better? It needs everyone’s support and buy-in and not just those who work in tourism. Everybody needs to be a part of making tourism work in Jamaica,” he emphasised.
Robinson pointed out that as a sector that has inter-linkages, the tourism product is “our gift to the world… . It is a combination of everything”.
“Of all the islands in the Caribbean, Jamaica has so much to offer in regard to our competitors. It’s time now for the nation to realise the importance of tourism. Fifty per cent of our foreign exchange earnings come from tourism. It’s the food, it’s the culture, it is what we have that makes us special why everyone wants to come to Jamaica,” he noted.
Chairman of the COVID-19 Resilient Corridors John Byles said while there are calls to diversify the economy, Jamaica still has a competitive advantage on the world stage with tourism.
“Tourism over the last 20 years has proven – even with all of the naysayers – that with it the economy continues to grow. Is it that we need to diversify the economy? I would say absolutely yes, but that does not mean in any way we should marginalise an engine of growth that has a competitive advantage,” he noted.
And chief executive officer (CEO) of Chukka Caribbean Adventures Marc Melville said tourism is one of the few industries in which we can compete globally.
“We’re not just competing domestically. We are competing against the world,” Melville said.