What is your perspective on Spanish investment in Jamaica?
Spain is the second-largest foreign investor in Jamaica, and the perspective is promising and favorable. We have strong bilateral relations, mainly in the economic field due to the significant investment that has taken place in the tourism sector. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the five largest Spanish hotel chains—RIU, Bahía Príncipe, Iberostar, Palladium, and Meliá—established themselves in the north of the island. Secrets and Breathless came afterwards. In 2019, H10 hotel group will open a new hotel with 1,000 new rooms. In the coming years, we expect new and substantial Spanish investments in the tourism sector. Currently, Spanish hotels offer 49% of the rooms in Jamaica in the three- to five-star range, with more than 8,000 rooms amounting to 25% of the total hotel capacity of the island. Additionally, there has been a second wave of Spanish investment in the last two years focused on the energy sector. Spanish engineering firm TSK is building a 190-MW new power plant in Old Harbour, helping to diversify Jamaica's energy mix.
How can the dynamism in tourism impact additional businesses?
Hotel investment attracts other investments and complementary activities. A clear example of this is in the Dominican Republic, where significant investment in the hotel sector attracted other service companies and increased the arrival of Spanish merchandise and encouraged bilateral trade. In the case of Jamaica, some service companies have been established, such as Grupo ACS and Hospiten. These groups have made investments to complement the hotel sector, and this would not have been the case without the previous significant investments by the hotel chains.
What are the initiatives to promote more trade?
According to the World Economic Forum, Spain is the most competitive economy in the world in the tourism sector, and there is a great deal to offer. Furthermore, Jamaica will see that leading companies in other sectors such as infrastructure, logistics, and energy can come to the country to invest. We can even think of a closer relationship in the field of agriculture as we have maintained contact with JAMPRO and the Economic Growth Council; it would be highly desirable for Spanish companies to participate in the growth of the agricultural sector through partnerships with Jamaican companies with technology in genetics, irrigation, and greenhouses.
In commercial terms, how important is the Caribbean region?
For a long time, we concentrated our efforts on the mainland. A year and a half ago, the Secretary of State for Latin America changed the name of his department to Secretary of State for Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, because it is impossible to understand Latin America without the Caribbean. It is important to bear in mind that 70% of the population of the Caribbean islands are Spanish speaking and only 19% of the people of the Caribbean are English speaking. Nonetheless, the Caribbean will play an increasingly important role in Spanish foreign policy due to the growing economic relationship between Spain and the region.
What are your perspectives on 2019 regarding collaboration between Spain and Jamaica?
We want to continue strengthening the links, as we foresee Spanish investment continuing to increase. As a consequence, some projects have already started, and others are about to begin, such as that of the Princess Group and the Excellence Group hotel chain that is expanding its hotels in Oyster Bay Falmouth. Additionally, there are many companies already established that are studying other investment opportunities such as Palladium Group, Iberostar, and Bahia Principe. In addition, Spanish investments in other sectors, such as energy, will most likely continue. The economic relationship between Spain and Jamaica is growing and becoming stronger while the political relationship has been consolidated through a strategic partnership and high-level visits, such as the visit of Minister Kamina Johnson Smith to Madrid in 2018.