As Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett MP holds one of the most influential positions in the travel and tourism industry. A die-hard sports fan too, he’s just arrived in Beijing to cheer on the hugely-talented and hotly-tipped Jamaican athletics team, whose stars include the current 100m World Record holder, Usain Bolt, and his fellow countryman and arch rival, Asafa Powell.
Mr. Bartlett dropped into the World Travel Awards VIP Sports Lounge at the Westin Beijing Financial Street to share his excitement with the press on the eve of track and field events, and Saturday’s blue-riband event - the men’s 100m final.BTN: How are you finding your time here in Beijing?
EB: Very exciting! I arrived at the Jamaican Olympic Village first to meet the athletes and had a series of business discussions. So far it has been good. It actually rained today in great torrents. Good things are about to happen, and the skies are now clear for the 100m dash on Saturday.
(pictured above: Ed Bartlett with Graham Cooke, President of World Travel Awards and Reigning Miss World, Zi Lin Zhang of China)
BTN: It’s a hugely exciting time for Jamaica here at the Olympics. Can you tell me your hopes for the Jamaican team and what success would mean for the Jamaican tourist industry?
EB: We are expecting our best ever Games in Olympic history. It is well known that Jamaica, despite being a small county, has had enormous success in track and field. In fact we are the only country outside of the U.S. that has medalled in every Olympics since 1948 in track and field. Jamaica is widely known as an exciting land of sand, sea and sun, and of course, good reggae music, but this year we will really make our statement as the sprint factory of the world.
BTN: And what about the travel and tourism industry in Jamaica, how are your arrival figures?
EB: Well we have been doing very well, in fact growth for the year is 7 per cent so that’s two and a half times higher than the Caribbean average and certainly ahead of the world growth rate at this time. We had a record of 1.1 million stop-overs and earned $1.1bn for the first half of the year, that’s the highest growth that Jamaica has ever had and it has a leading position in the Caribbean.
(pictured above: Ed Bartlett with Miss World, Zi Lin Zhang of China)
BTN: What are Jamaica’s biggest markets?
EB: The U.S. of course. The US is where we have little over a million stop-overs and about 800,000 on cruises so we are looking at 1.8 million arrivals from the US alone.
BTN: And what the most popular places to visit in Jamaica?
EB: Visitors are going all over Jamaica. They are going mainly to Montego Bay, to Negril, Port Antonio and, of course, Kingston.
(Sharing their views at a press conference: Godfrey Dyer, Chairman, Jamaica Tourism Enhancement Fund; Ed Bartlett; Miss World; Gianna Merlo, President of AIPS; Graham Cooke, President of World Travel Awards)
BTN: And finally, do you have a message for the team?
EB: Yes. Just deliver for Jamaica the promise of gold. It is a great promise. I was there today with them and they are determined to do their best and perform at the highest level they have ever performed. And that is my message to them, just perform the best you have ever performed and that will be enough for us.
I made the point earlier that one of the girls who participated in the swimming, she actually didn’t make the final 16 but guess what? She broke the national record! She did her lifetime best. That was satisfying to me, so my word to the athletes, do your life time best!
Career brief: Edmund Bartlett
Edmund Bartlett was born in Westmoreland, Jamaica on 3 December 1950. He attended St. Elizabeth Technical High and the University of the West Indies.
An active Member of Parliament for more than 22 years, Mr. Bartlett has represented the constituency of East Central St. James since 2002. During that time he has also served as Opposition Spokesman for Tourism, earning the respect of Industry players in both the private and public sectors for his thorough knowledge of the tourism sector and sound judgment.
He took up his new ministerial post after the elections in December 2007. He served as Minister of Youth and Community Development as well as Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and Culture in the Jamaica Labour Party in the 1980s.
He is the Founder and Patron of Jamaica Foundation for Children. He enjoys playing cricket, dominoes, table tennis and dancing. He has been married for 32 years and is the father of two.