The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP
Ground Breaking Ceremony for the US$110 Million Excellence Oyster Bay Resort at Blue Waters, Trelawny
March 30, 2017
Thank you Minister Bartlett. I was just reflecting that I need a vacation. You will agree with me that the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea, the wind and the sand – well we have the sun everyday so we take it for granted, but it is all just very relaxing and I was literally just drifting off until Ed reminded me that I had to speak.
This is indeed a very valuable gift that God has given to Jamaica, this environment, this climate; we have to use it wisely because as it stands now tourism is our largest foreign exchange earner. It is our major production and it is our major export. Yes tourism is an export industry; it’s just that you have to come here to enjoy it.
Jamaica is blessed so while it may come as a surprise to others that we have been ranked number one in this region and I believe they made an error to say twelfth in the world. I believe it’s higher than that but there is no question that Jamaica is a special place but we cannot rely on our historical exceptionalism. We have to do more to improve on our product, improve our offering, improve our service and that is why I’m so happy to hear of Group of Excellence or anything to do with Excellence, Marisa you know that I am a part of that.
Minister Vaz pointed out that he was not appointed as the go to minister, he volunteered and that is right. That is true because to get things done in Jamaica sometimes- well not sometimes, it takes too long. It is a frustration that I’ve heard over and over again from investors from people who would want to come and do business here but surprisingly we also hear it from our technical people. We hear it from our civil servants; we hear it from government officials so everyone agrees that our bureaucracy is just too dense.
It takes too long to penetrate and it takes too long to get an outcome so that’s why you need a go to minister who can find his way around. Of course invariably when you try to find your way around you step on any toes but this government is about the outcome in as much as we are about process and fulfilling the rule and spirit of the law, we are also about outcomes.
Today is an outcome that is long in coming and when we started the discussions on this the entire cabinet took the position that we need to accelerate development and Minister Vaz volunteered to be the accelerator and Minister Bartlett again you know Minister Bartlett is a special minister of Tourism. We’re not going to have another minister of tourism like Ed Bartlett.
How many awards have you won? Too many because tourism is in his blood. When he speaks you can hear not just the technical understanding but he has an almost spiritual understanding of tourism and what can be achieved for our national development and I want to publicly say how proud and pleased I am of the work that you’ve been doing in tourism. Of course nothing gets done without the permanent secretaries. Permanent Secretary Sewell and Griffith – invaluable work in just getting things done so they say the ministers talk and the Permanent Secretaries act.
Falmouth it appears to be by virtue of the investor choice, it appears to be the place of choice for investment in tourism. It is the next big thing for Jamaica in tourism. We take note of the developments that are happening on this stretch and we want to welcome Mr. Monserrate Amengual to Jamaica and particularly to Falmouth. I was reading the project overview and you know I’m going to come here and stay when it’s finished and it sounds like it’s going to be an interesting place to vacation. I’m going to personally come.
Falmouth has an incredible potential and not just for all-inclusive developments but also for cruise shipping. We note that as Mayor Gager pointed out we are home to several cruise ships that makes Falmouth their port of call. However the town of Falmouth itself is a great tourism potential which we have not fully utilized and which I would like it to be known publicly that I am going to be taking a personal interest in ensuring that Falmouth town itself has so much history, the architecture is there, the people are there who are friendly and welcoming but public order issues, cleanliness issues, organizational issues of the town and just leadership is necessary.
Everyone wants a piece of the tourism pie but if you rush the pie it may fall and breakup and then all you end up with is crumbs; but if all that prevails and structure and importantly fairness and equity then everybody can get not just a piece of the pie but you can grow the pie so the piece gets bigger for everybody. I am hearing too many complaints both from the cruise shipping sector of dissatisfaction. They can’t go out too far when they go into town; they have to go back on the ship because the place isn’t ready. You know I talk plain and straight; we have to correct that and I’m going to take a personal interest in ensuring that that is corrected.
Whilst Jamaica has developed on the model of the all-inclusive, the all-inclusive model has limits. We have to ensure that when people come to visit they come to visit Jamaica and not a hotel.
So the same standards that should prevail for tourist to come and enjoy easy navigation of our streets, our towns and cities should be the same standards that prevail for the citizens who use these facilities and infrastructure on a regular basis. When they come to visit Jamaica, they’re not just visiting Oyster Bay, they’ll come, they’ll play here, they’ll sleep here, they’ll eat here but they may very well choose to say let me go to the pub – the bar, or got to one of the dance, go to somewhere and then they will say I had a true Jamaican experience and everybody benefits from that.
We have to develop not just the attractions and the resorts, but we have to develop the towns that are in proximity to these resorts which leads me to a point.
Of course I heard the great “cussing out” and I say that in the best way possible of certain segments of the tourism industry and Jamaica is a very robust democracy and because we are a robust democracy in a small island state when we curse each other afterwards we hug-up and have a drink and are friends because we have to live together.
We’re all one people so we hear the concerns raised about the tourism enhancement fund and we understand. It comes down really to a matter of do we trust our government to maintain the funds in a way that will be suitable for the stakeholders. That’s what it really comes down to and I replay, appreciate and understand the concerns that have been raised by the Jamaican hotels association and other stakeholders in the tourism industry.
It’s not the intention of the government to plunder any reserves or any funds that have been gained by sector industries and interest. That’s not the intention but good fiscal management of the country’s resources dictate that there has to be greater central direction and there in no way could the government pursue a policy that would be inimical to the development of the tourism industry. I want to reassure the tourism industry since I see many of the important players here that the government will ensure that the development plans that you have are all financed and facilitated under the new model of public management of our resources.
Minister Bartlett said that there were some ominous clouds on the horizon and we’ve always had ominous clouds but you’re right, the tourism industry has been very agile; the players in the market understand the market and they have been as you have said above the fray and ahead of the crowd in every regard.
We know that this is a changing world. All kinds of things happening in North America; things are happening in Europe as well and Jamaica has to position itself in such a way that whatever happens Jamaica still remains a successful player in the tourism industry.
Every year so far in the last decade we have shown signs of growth and in some years robust growth and last year the figures looked good as well and I want to congratulate the leadership of the tourism industry and the investors as well that have done such a wonderful job in ensuring that the product continues to grow.
We are here to break ground and no to do too much talking so where is the shovel? I’m ready. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.