While sprinting legend Usain Bolt looks set to start his retirement from the track by becoming a tourism ambassador for Jamaica, work is going on behind the scenes to bring the island within easier reach of international passengers.
Airline passenger numbers to Jamaica have grown by ten percent over the past five years and the Caribbean island is seeking to further increase its global share of international tourists by tapping into new and existing markets. The Jamaica Tourist Board has set a target of securing five million visitors by 2021 (up from 3.84 million in 2016) and the indicators for 2017 already show the country is on course for recording-breaking growth. If the visitor targets for 2021 are achieved, the nation will generate $5bn in tourism earnings, increase the total direct jobs to 125,000 and add 15,000 new rooms.
However, it’s important that these new opportunities reach Jamaica’s local communities and that tourism activities are carried out in such a way that benefits are maximised and negative impacts are minimised.
The Travel Foundation is working in Jamaica with the aim of increasing the scale and spread of tourism revenue to local businesses and communities. In partnership with the TUI Care Foundation and local stakeholders such as the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), we are developing attractions and excursions products (initially focusing in and around Montego Bay) as well as providing information for tourists to explore outside of their hotels.
There’s political recognition in Jamaica that sustainable tourism is an important a catalyst for job creation and inclusive growth. Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, has vowed to have a renewed commitment to promoting sustainable tourism; designed not just to benefit the country’s tourism industry, but also preserve its natural and cultural resources and stimulate economic growth for the wider domestic economy.
“I commend the work of organisations such as the Travel Foundation, which is actively working to promote sustainable tourism in Jamaica by increasing the scale and spread of tourism revenue to local businesses and communities,” he said.
Minister Bartlett’s tourism strategy proposes ‘Five Pillars of Tourism Growth’, designed to tap into new markets; develop new products; promote investment; build new partnerships, and develop human capital. These are centred on five networks designed to attract tourists and spread the resultant benefits as widely as possible among Jamaicans, namely: gastronomy; sports and entertainment; health and wellness; shopping; and knowledge.
In recognition of 2017 as the ‘International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development’, Jamaica will later this November host the UN World Tourism Organization, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Global Conference on Partnerships for Jobs and Inclusive Growth through Sustainable Tourism.