NEW ROLES, NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Jamaica 2018 | MONTEGO BAY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to T'Shura Gibbs, President of Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, on creating new opportunities for Montego Bay's development, from tried-and-true sectors such as tourism to upcoming industries such as tech.

 T’Shura Gibbs
BIOGRAPHY
T’Shura Gibbs is the President of Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce. Having served for almost 20 years in the airline industry, she quickly ascended to the leadership of Avianca Airlines, where she served as General Manager for Jamaica. She is currently the CEO of Zimmer and Co., a health and wellness distribution company.

How does the Chamber of Commerce contribute to the development of Montego Bay?

The Chamber of Commerce advocates for the benefit of our membership, the expanded business community, and the broader city of Montego Bay. Whenever the need arises, we lobby the government. A prime example is the fact that Montego Bay has been growing both from an economic and a population standpoint, to the extent that we have outgrown the current roads infrastructure. We have been lobbying the government to build a highway or bypass road that will take people outside and around the city of Montego Bay and effectively address this traffic issue. We also advocate and support government initiatives that relate to workforce development to help address the youth unemployment rate, which sits at approximately 30% across Jamaica. The chamber is playing a role through a special initiative that was recently introduced by the Prime Minister.

What can be done to make tourism even more beneficial for Montego Bay?

There is a great opportunity for attractions. Currently, in Montego Bay, cruise ships come in and people stay in hotels; however, they have to venture out to other areas to participate in attractions. There are opportunities in the attraction space and entertainment, particularly for local entertainment such as live bands and Jamaican performances, allowing tourists to leave their hotels and interact with locals and enjoy the entertainment here. It is a great opportunity for investors in entertainment and attraction ventures.

What more could be done in offering affordable transportation for tourists?

As Montego Bay's population continues to grow, it is important to improve both public and private transportation options and costs. Part of the challenge is that there are not enough activities to drive people out of their hotels, so taxi drivers are looking for yield as opposed to volume. Structurally, we need to address the issue of getting more people out of their hotels seeing and experiencing Montego Bay. Tourists have to be inclined to try different places rather than worrying about how much it will cost to get there. Once we get to that place where we have more attractions and entertainment within the city, then we should see a drop in the rates. Again, this is something that the chamber can work with different organizations and play a role in moving forward

What are the highlights of the growth in local industry, and what are the areas for further development?

The BPO sector has been doing well, and we have seen exponential growth in that area. I would like to see the industry play an even greater role in the business value chain, and not just the call center experience. Montego Bay, and Jamaica as a whole, is seeing its role increase in the value chain for large companies. There are also opportunities for agriculture; today, farmers are the reaper, packer, transporter, accountant, and deliveryman. What we need are different groups owning different parts of that value chain to ensure that we have the required scale for a sustainable agriculture industry to supply the needs of the hotels and local economy. We want to see agriculture play a key role in the continued growth of hotels and the hospitality sector. Hotels are more often than not unable to secure locally the volumes of fruits and vegetables that they require, and this is an opportunity for economies of scale in agriculture. They want to source locally but they cannot get it at the requisite quality and volume. The local economy is more than hospitality and tourism; for example, there is an opportunity in the tech industry. We want to make sure that Montego Bay is not left behind in the conversation and is actually involved in the technology space, including fintech.