Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett says, though the destination is not at risk, his Ministry will increase efforts to tackle the issue of crime affecting the people of Jamaica.
Addressing delegates at the 56th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and awards luncheon of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Saturday (June 17), Minister Bartlett said, “safety and security must be a feature of our own existence as a people, because tourism is not just about the visitor but about the people in the destination and we have to act on protecting our people first.”
The Minister went on to state that the Ministry of Tourism is working closely with the Ministry of National Security to ensure that local national security becomes aligned with tourism security.
“We are at one in driving the formula to tackle crime and we have a role to play in tourism, which we have already played in part and are going to play even more. This includes our safety and security programme driven by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), which is led by a former Deputy Commissioner Scarlett,” said Minister Bartlett.
A major part of the safety and security programme is the recently launched Destination Assurance Councils (DACs) for six resort areas, which are tasked with ensuring that the quality, standards and integrity of Jamaica’s tourism product are maintained. Each council includes representatives from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
During his address, the Minister also disclosed that it is his intention to remove the inequity that exists within the sector, where communities in resort areas do not feel like beneficiaries of tourism and as such do not protect it.
“It is in Tourism Linkages Council that we are going to try to bridge the gap and reduce the inequities in the system to enable more people to feel comfortable with themselves and tourism, to protect it and keep it safe and secure. We want to ensure that the communities surrounded by tourism, enjoy some of the joys that the sector enjoys,” explained the Minister.
Despite the challenges, Minister Bartlett said that tourism in Jamaica is performing well and is driving the economy.
“Tourism is providing the largest block of foreign exchange in an annual basis – last year we recorded US$2.56 billion and are trending this year to be in the region of US$2.8 billion. We also recorded US$1.2 billion in earnings and welcomed a historic one million visitor arrivals in six months. Not to mention, we are experiencing a 4.5 per cent growth, which is in line with our forecast of five per cent by end of year,” he shared.