Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett has urged financial institutions across the Caribbean to better establish a window of opportunity for small and medium tourism enterprises.
Organisations, including the Caribbean Development Bank, are also urged to invest more in tourism in the region.
Bartlett argued a more significant contribution to national economies and its citizens can only come through improving the capacity of people to provide an enhanced visitor experience.
His remarks were made during the 47th annual meeting of the board of governors of the Caribbean Development Bank in the Turks & Caicos Islands.
“Even though one in 11 workers in the world work with the tourism industry and some US$7.6 trillion dollars of tourism expenditure happened last year globally; only a very meagre 0.15 per cent of multilateral and donor agency funds go into tourism globally, that is less than a quarter of one percent.
“This amounts to less than US$250 million of all the loans provided went to the sector.
“There has to be a change therefore in that whole attitude towards the industry so that more can be provided for the people who can contribute to the development of the region,” Bartlett said.
He noted the banking system in the Caribbean is yet to come to grips with the demand for tourism and the development of the kind of portfolio that will allow small and medium tourism enterprises to have access to the requisite funds.
This in light of the fact that the Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region on earth, with over 50 percent of GDP and one in five workers being tourism related for at least 16 of 28 nations in the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, Bartlett highlighted that a 2014 report conducted by the United Nations Environment Program showed that the Caribbean, though being the most tourism dependent region on earth, had the highest level of leakage of tourism expenditure.
“It is at 80 per cent, that is 80 cents of every dollar being leaked; meaning it goes back to pay for the cost of tourism, the visitor and the inputs of the industry that are required.
“In the case of Jamaica, the report said that we were 70 percent, with 30 cents of the dollar staying here and 70 cents leaving the country,” he said.
“We, therefore, have to own the consumption side of tourism and build the capacity of our people to deliver on the experience and, by so doing, increase the level of retention of the tourism dollar in the economy,” the minister noted.
He went on to say that: “By providing well needed financial support to SMTEs and those companies which play a vital part in the tourism value chain we can build out our visitor experiences – in gastronomy, entertainment, sports, health and other areas that appeal to their passion points.
“This will encourage visitors to spend more; thus, we will retain more of the tourism dollars and stop leakage.”
While in Turks & Caicos, Bartlett joined secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Hugh Riley; economist Amos Peters; executive director of the Turks & Caicos Hotel & Tourism Association Stacy Cox and other regional tourism stakeholders in a discussion on issues that are key to advancing economic growth in the Caribbean, including regional productivity and tourism industry reform.
The Caribbean Development Bank is a regional financial institution that was created for the purpose of contributing to the economic growth and development of member countries in the Caribbean.
It assists Caribbean nations in financing social and economic programs.
The board of governors is the highest policy making body of the CDB and meets once a year in one of the member countries of CDB.
Also on the agenda for the tourism hotspot Turks & Caicos this year is the World Travel Awards Caribbean & North America Gala Ceremony 2017.
The event will take place at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa on September 16th, where the Jamaica Tourist Board itself will be looking to defend the titles of Caribbean’s Leading Destination and Caribbean’s Leading Tourist Board it won last year..