CHANGING FACE OF TOURISTS

Jamaica 2018 | TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, on developing alternative tourist destinations, promoting Brand Jamaica, and attracting even more FDI to the sector.

Edmund Bartlett
BIOGRAPHY
Recognized for his wide-ranging expertise and accomplishments in the political arena, Edmund Bartlett has given over 35 years of service to Jamaica, working both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. He was first appointed Minister of Tourism in 2007, serving until December 2011. Prior to this appointment, he had a solid track record of service as a legislator in central government in both Chambers of Parliament. He returned to the helm of the Ministry of Tourism following his party’s victory in Jamaica’s February 2016 general election.

How do you see the evolution of Jamaican tourism, and which key markets are you targeting to increase the number of visitors?

Tourism today is characterized by a larger demographic of people with knowledge and empowerment, though they possess a limited purchasing power. This is a younger group defined as millennials with a desire and need to travel, do good, and contribute; it is traveling with a purpose beyond leisure. People are also traveling now more for health and wellness because of new medical applications, innovations in medical technology, and the use of nutraceuticals and alternative medical applications. These are the passion points around which products have to be developed to respond to psychographic profiles to enable a destination to now be relevant. In the middle of all that is a price point that also has to be affordable. This has resulted in the emergence of new business models, such as the sharing economy with Airbnb and Uber, for example. Therefore, tourism is evolving into a system of access, and the new entrepreneurs are those who enable access.

Has this evolution enabled you to develop new tourist destinations in Jamaica?

That is one part of the new tourism evolution; the second part is developing the possibilities as we democratize and offer new destinations in Jamaica. We are constructing a new highway, the southeastern corridor from Kingston through to Port Antonio, which will create a new opportunity for a destination in St. Thomas. It could perhaps become driven by diversity because tourists are traveling through the Blue Mountains, and there is an enormous opportunity for eco-tourism. In addition, the parish has many beaches, and there is also the possibility of having a highly diversified experiential destination on the southeastern coast. Brand Jamaica promotes entertainment, sports, and music, and the new tourism strategy will build a stronger presence of entertainment, music, and sports in the global space.

How is multi-destination tourism going to benefit Jamaican tourism?

Multi-destination tourism will be a key factor in driving this expanding connectivity across the world as a small island like Jamaica will have difficulties in scale in dealing with large carriers that will bring hundreds of passengers across the world. It has become easier to transport more people over longer distances and travelers can now spend two to three weeks in the region; they do not fly all the way just to spend a few nights in one place. Multi-destination tourism, which offers travelers the opportunity to have multiple experiences within a prescribed geographic space, will be an important part of enabling the reach to those markets.

What would you advise international investors that are keen to invest in the local tourism industry?

This is the right decision because Jamaica is poised for significant growth. In 4Q2017, we welcomed the 4 millionth visitor to Jamaica and earned approximately USD3 billion for the year. That is a significant milestone, and this is where the real economic impact of tourism will be felt. When a country with 2.7 million people earns USD3 billion, it begins to have a net accretion. Even if the retention levels are low, the absolute amount left in the economy is substantial enough to make a difference. Jamaica is right at that point where it is exciting enough to attract larger partners than in the past. Investors are now on to something; here is a market, a product, and the possibility of connectivity. Investors have an opportunity to make a move now because in another 10 years, investing in Jamaica will become a more difficult proposition because of greater competition. It is important to build our human capital and strengthen the capacity of our people to produce more and more cost effectively. To do so, we have to change and build on the intellectual and competence levels within the industry. We are using the opportunity now to create that infrastructure.