The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP
United Nations World Tourism Conference
Montego Bay Convention Centre November 28, 2017
General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization;
Ms Gloria Guevara Manzo, President of the World Travel and Tourism Council;
Mr Alexandre Guerra De Rosa, Vice President for countries into American Development Bank;
Heads of Delegations;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps and international organizations;
His Worship the Mayor, Councillor Homer Davis, Mayor of Montego Bay;
Heads of Organizations, Agencies and Departments;
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
I’m delighted to be here with you; a very pleasant good morning.
I know that yesterday Minister Bartlett would have welcomed you to the conference and to Jamaica but let me add my own warm welcome to all of you. Welcome to Jamaica.
This event is truly a remarkable success. As I was discussing with Mr Rifai, the numbers of delegates who have decided to attend have surpassed our expectations. It is clearly by virtue of the excellent arrangements that have been made but I will accept your observation too Mr Rafi that it is also as a result of the conference being held in Jamaica.
It is indeed an honour for the Government of Jamaica along with the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the World Bank Group and the Inter-American development Bank to host this historic global conference; the first world conference on tourism to be held in the Caribbean and indeed in the western hemisphere. In fact, I understand that this is the first time that a tourism conference of this nature has occurred where Prime Ministers, Ministers, Heads of International Organizations along with the cruise and land sectors, airlines, bankers, academia, NGO among others, are all in one space to focus on the tourism industry. This is truly the right place and the right time to make the right connections and show the effectiveness of strong partnerships.
With over a thousand participants – I gather over 1,500 participants from over sixty countries registered the convening of tourism stalwarts’ government and non-government representatives and other partners from across the globe at this conference. This conference positions Jamaica and the Caribbean as serious players in the business of tourism.
I’m sure the dialogue here will positively impact the future of the tourism industry globally. I’m sure the discussions here have opened minds, deepened understanding, strength and resolve, created links and partnerships and ultimately inspire positive action. Recently Jamaica also hosted the 2017 International Monetary Fund High Level Caribbean Forum and one of the major discussion points emerging from that conference was the need to transition from focusing on macroeconomics stability to growth inducing activities and how these activities must be linked to promoting social inclusion and poverty reduction.
This conference compliments those discussions. We must pivot our tourism growth strategies in line with the key areas that the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development promotes inclusive and sustainable growth, social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction, resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change, cultural values, diversity and heritage, mutual understanding, peace and security.
Tourism dependent countries like many Caribbean nations must critically consider how our tourism product should adapt and evolve to reflect the new realities the new realities of climate change, the evolving tourist preference. We now have to figure out how do we treat with the millennials in the tourism product.
Terrorism and traveller safety, and security concerns and new and emerging tourism markets, products and technology; it is a time when we must truly embrace and give meaning to the words “travel”, “enjoy”, “respect”. I believe Mr Rifai that is the theme of the UNWTO.
I’m certain that you may have heard some Jamaican words like ‘irie’ meaning everything is good. ‘Irie man’ – I feel good man, and recently you probably would have heard President Obama popularize one of out terms of endearment, our greeting ‘wha gwaan man”. “Wha gwaan Jamaica” meaning what’s happening man? We have another term that we use in Jamaica. It’s about respect. Respect is a very important ethos of our culture; of the Jamaican culture. In Jamaica we say ‘respect due’ and respect is due to tourism. Respect is due in both interpretations of the saying. Respect is due to tourism meaning that tourism is deserving of our respect as an industry that has contributed so significantly to our economies but also that as a result of tourism we can teach our people to respect our environmental and heritage and natural assets, so respect due to tourism.
There has been somewhat a revolution in terms of travel in terms of how people source their vacations, the places they want to stay and what they want to experience. We are cognizant of this and understand that we must also change. Travel facilitation is at the core of developing tourism and unlocking its socioeconomic benefits. We must place emphasis on how we market our destination and on finding new markets.
Recently Jamaica has been placing renewed emphasis on revitalizing markets and on introducing new direct airlift for markets such as Poland; we have people from Poland in the house. In fact, Jamaica recorded a phenomenal 91.3% increase in stopover visitor arrivals in September 2017 from the Southern and Western regions of Europe compared to same period last year.
In addition, I’m pleased to note that for the ten months of 2017 there was a 7% increase in stop-over arrivals in comparison to the corresponding period for 2016 and cruise ship passenger arrivals were up 12.7% for January to October 2017. From a total of 3.4 million visitors in ten months Jamaica earned 2.3 billion US dollars or 10% more than we earned last year.
We want our visitors to be truly able to enjoy and experience our destination. This requires mobility, seamlessness and security. Together with the increasing airlift capacity and new marketing strategies and new destination products, we are also looking at our infrastructure in terms of ease of access throughout the island. In addition to road improvement right across the island, we will be building a bypass road for Montego Bay, which will make it much easier for traffic flow in the city, which will promote the tourism industry here the tourist capital of Jamaica and Allan I can’t say you will agree with me, but I will say it nonetheless; the tourism capital of the Caribbean.
Of course, with great respect and deference to my friend President Medina, we will also be revitalizing and redeveloping many of our important tourism townships. We will be developing our boardwalks and promenades, restoring our marinas, fixing up our beaches but we’re also going to pay attention to the local infrastructure to reorganize and reorder our towns so that the locals can benefit from the tourism product. The truth is that when we allow local life to be better, for the citizens they create the product, the experience, they create the authenticity that brings the visitors and so our strategy of redevelopment is not just to focus on the tourism infrastructure but to make life better for the citizens and that will bring the authentic product.
The government of Jamaica continues to take concrete steps to expand our tourism product and to create more opportunities that will improve the livelihoods of Jamaicans. For example, we recently declared the boundaries of the Cockpit Country protected area. Now the Cockpit Country is an internationally recognized primary forest in Jamaica. Someone said to me that when Christopher Columbus came to Jamaica, he would probably have seen this forest so it’s not just an environmental asset; it is also a heritage asset that we have now decided to protect to leave for generations to come.
This area is recognized for its historical and cultural significance but also for its biodiversity, its fresh water resources and for the unique geomorphological formation that creates what is called the Cockpit karst. Preserving the Cockpit Country protected area allows us to create new economic opportunities for heritage tourism, health and wellness tourism, and ecotourism while sustaining our environment.
Often times when we speak about conserving the environment and sustainable development, sometimes we feel that the assets that we are preserving mean that we must not use them. However, we in tourism understand that use can preserve. Using our assets in the right way actually preserve them and at the same time educates the population about the value of the assets and converts the population into protectors of the assets because they earn from it and the tourist also have the experience that they would want; a win-win for all, sustainable use of our natural resources.
I’m pleased that on Thursday there will be a technical tour where delegates of this conference can visit for example the Rasta Indigenous Village showing off our cultural diversity, the Bunker’s Hill Cultural Experience and River Tour and importantly the Cockpit Country Adventure Tours which is now one of the local community based tourism enterprises being showcased in Jamaica.
We’re taking steps to make the changes to the infrastructure and the activities offered to ensure that visitors enjoy their stay while also ensuring respect; respect due to our environment. Respect due to our people and our culture to ensure respect for tourism.
Tourism must be developed in a sustainable way so as to preserve the resources of destinations. Its development must be properly planned and managed, as the resources on which tourism depends must be available for future generations.
As the global economy expands and tourism along with it, there is strong evidence that tourism if properly designed and managed can contribute significantly to the global agenda of tackling poverty and fostering development.
Tourism is fundamentally a people based activity. Careful planning of human resources with private enterprise and employee representatives is needed to ensure that tourism can fulfil its employment creation potential and as a supply of suitably skilled labour to meet future growth demands.
Designing tourism that enhances opportunities for local communities to leverage their cultural and natural assets benefit from employment in tourism activities as well as the supply of services and goods to tourism businesses or directly to visitors and in this way securing livelihoods and empowering local communities will help to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth. Besides its direct contribution to jobs, tourism’s multiply effect on related sectors such as trade, agriculture, manufacturing and construction further amplifies the employment impact of tourism. It is already one the largest employment sectors in many countries, and a fast entry vehicle into the workforce for our young people.
Just as tourism growth can foster inclusion through the wide net it casts in job creation and across related sectors, tourism growth and sustainability can be mutually reinforcing by embedding sustainability strategies into tourism planning. All forms of tourism have the potential to contribute to the transition towards agreeing economy through investments in energy and water efficiency, climate change mitigation through reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, waste reduction, biodiversity and cultural heritage conservation and the strengthening of linkages with local communities.
Tourism can contribute to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development as it is amongst the world’s largest industries. For seven consecutive years, international tourists’ arrivals have continued on a growth path realizing 1.2 billion persons in 2016 and a projected 1.8 billion travellers by the year 2030.
Tourism also contributes to 10% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, 7% of global trade and provides one in every ten jobs. Between January and June of this year, international tourism had already accounted for 598 million tourists, 36 million more than the same period in 2016. This has been the strongest growth in the first half of the year since 2010.
While the Caribbean tourism product remains in high demand it is unfortunate that by virtue of location, size and sometimes poor infrastructure Caribbean destinations are most vulnerable to climate change realities. With this reality, we must call for greater collaboration and renewed sense of partnership to catapult the discourse on a more resilient and sustainable tourism product. This conference provides an excellent platform to leverage and deepen this conversation and strengthen this partnership.
In closing let me commend the numerous local and international partners and sponsors for all the work involved in ensuring the success of this conference. This is a true and powerful demonstration of public/ private partnership in action promoting socioeconomic development, sustainability, job creation and competitiveness through tourism as an economic powerhouse.
I am excited about this conference and its deliverables in promoting a tourism sector that is sustainable and inclusive. Jamaica’s strong tourism sector performance since the start of the year builds on the successes of 2016 when the sector expended and welcomed over 3.8 million visitors in total and we are definitely on track to surpass that for 2017.
Tourism must ensure inclusive growth where everyone participates in the growth process and everyone shares equitably in the benefits of growth; that must be the outcome. It must have the impact of making communities better places and by extension better nations. Tourism can move nations from poverty to prosperity; respect due to tourism.