In the first of a series of interviews ahead of Caribbean Marketplace 2010, BTN talks to the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister for Tourism on his plans for 2010.
Since taking office just over two years ago, Mr Bartlett has rapidly established a reputation as one of region’s most progressive tourism leaders. He has just been voted “Man of Year 2009” by the Jamaica Observer, beating the likes of sprinting superstar Usain Bolt.
Jamaica’s tourism economy is navigating the global downturn thanks to savvy initiatives generated by Bartlett and his team. Jamaica’s tourism supremacy was rewarded at the 2009 World Travel Awards, the Oscar’s of the travel industry, where it emerged with no less than 16 awards, and the recognition of over 180,000 travel professionals that participated in the voting process.
BTN: What kind of year do you envisage 2010 will be for Jamaica?
EB: The year 2010 will be a challenging one, however, it may not be as challenging as 2009, given the fact that we have put in the infrastructure to ensure growth. In addition to our effective airlift strategy, the green shoots of economic recovery which are apparent in our larger international tourism markets should see us successfully defending our growth levels for 2009 and growing further in 2010.
(Above: the mysterious Blue Lagoon with seductive hues and seemingly endless depths)
BTN: What are you hoping to achieve at this year’s Caribbean Marketplace?
EB: The Caribbean Marketplace is the largest gathering of tourism interest and expertise in the Region. This is a huge opportunity for networking – maintaining and creating relationships that will take Jamaica’s tourism to new dimensions of excellence.
(Left: Cliff diving at Negril)
BTN: You were vote Man of the Year by the Jamaica Observer, and Jamaica picked up 16 awards at the World Travel Awards. What was your approach to making 2009 such a good year for you?
EB: We worked hard as a team to create the strategies to help us grow even through recession. We sold Destination Jamaica aggressively within a framework we call the New Tourism: Marketing, Product Development and Investment. We ramped up our marketing, we approached new markets, we devised a strong airlift strategy to get more visitors to Jamaica and we improved our tourism product. Importantly, the Government of Jamaica also introduced a special stimulus package that included tax incentives and development loans for the tourism sector.
(Right: Montego Bay’s legendary Reggae Sumfest)
BTN: How are you able to use your role as tourism minister to shape your island’s tourism economy?
EB: I use my office to continuously project Jamaica to the international community as a destination that is open for business. It is open for typical tourist, who is investing in a short period of leisure or learning, it is open to the investor in physical or virtual tourism infrastructure. Our tourism is dynamic and I have used the time to encourage everyone to experience what we have to offer. Locally, I have been doing the same, getting our citizens to heighten their appreciation of the value of tourism to Jamaica’s economy - it is the number 1 foreign exchange earner and employs over 10% of the workforce. So my job of selling Jamaica’s tourism to my fellow Jamaicans and to the world can never be overdone.
BTN: What kind of plans, development or initiatives are currently underway in Jamaica?
EB: We have a number of new initiatives that we will roll out in 2010… I wouldn’t want to reveal all just yet, suffice it to say that our activities going forward will be conducted within the philosophy of New Markets, New Partnerships and New Technologies. I can assure you that 2010 is going to be an exciting final year of the first decade of the new Millennium.
(Above: The spectacular Dunns River Falls, fringed with lush gardens and a small golden-sand beach; and below: the one and only James Bond beach)
BTN: How would you like Jamaica’s tourism industry to evolve?
EB: We want to emerge and evolve as a recession-proof destination with a variety of experiences that will be highly and consistently attractive and cost-effective in the international marketplace. We want, therefore, to be a consistent, top-of-mind destination, irrespective of the type of tourism the consumer wishes. Therefore, for the luxury traveller, the researcher, the seeker of cultural heterogeneity, the sporting, educational, medical or religious tourist, and I can go on….the point is, all these and other types of tourism can be experienced right here in Jamaica, a little island just 144 square miles long.