Economic Study Will Determin Gains From Jamaica's Tourism Industry

The Ministry of Tourism will undertake an economic impact study of the tourism industry in Jamaica at a cost of US$220,000 ($18.7 million) this year with the aim of unearthing and accreting the maximum economic gains from the industry.

On Wednesday, Edmund Bartlett, Minister of tourism, signed the contract for the study, with Sunil Sinha, managing director of management consultancy firm Nathan EME Limited at Devon House in Kingston.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett (centre) discusses the contract for an Economic Impact Study of the Tourism Industry in Jamaica, with Sunil Sinha (left), managing director, Nathan EME Limited, the consultancy company hired to conduct the study. Participating in the exchange is Jennifer Griffith, permanent secretary, Ministry of Tourism. The contract signing was held at Devon House in New Kingston on Wednesday.

The results of the study, to be completed in six months, should inform policy and investment objectives of government, the private sector and civil society towards the industry. Minister Bartlett said the study should provide “something of a road map in practical terms to complement a road map in empirical terms.”

He said tourism provides the opportunity for “numerous economic streams to flourish” because as an industry it does not favour one economic stream above the other. “It works equally for the aviation industry as it works for the craft vendors or the small businessman in the deep rural parts of Jamaica,” Bartlett said.

“And so one of the things that we really wanted to do is to streamline the sector. Is to put it on a platform where it can be recognised for its valuable contribution and it can be factored into the national planning as well as the distribution of national resources,” he said.

The study will assess the impact of tourism and related activities on the Jamaican economy in terms of employment, investment, output and foreign exchange earnings. The consultants are to also conduct financial analysis including analysis of revenues, expenses, investment and taxes.

According to a study conducted by the United Kingdom-based Oxford Economics for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the industry’s contribution to the Caribbean’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is within the region of 3.7 per cent to 4.2 per cent a year. The study, concluded in 2010, found that in Jamaica, the travel and tourism industry employs 284,000 people, or one in four jobs, and accounts for 27.7 per cent of GDP, or US$3.7 billion annually.

However, Bartlett said enough empirical data does not exist for tourism industry participants, and the cluster of supporting industries, to make informed decisions and to capitalise on the benefits of the industry.

“There is no single experience that can survive time. Equally, we serve the world’s changing demographic…and therefore having data guides us, puts us in a position to always be a success and respond. That is the difference between a growth industry and an industry that is stagnant.”

Stakeholders within government and its executive agencies as well as the private sector will form the Tourism Task Force responsible for overseeing the project, including Don Wehby, CEO GraceKennedy who will act as chairman, Micheal Lee Chin, chairman National Commercial Bank, Earl Jarrett, Jamaica National boss, Wayne Cummings, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association, Omar Azan, president, Jamaica Manufacturers Association, along with, Dr Pauline Knight, deputy director general at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and Sancia Bennett Templer, president of JAMPRO. Data will be drawn from local agencies such as The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), the PIOJ, the Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA), and the Jamaica Tourist Board, among others, then collated and analysed to provide suitable measures of tourism’s impact on the domestic economy. Tourism related activities, ranging from accommodations to handicrafts will be analysed and recommendations given for the advancement of the related activities within the industry.

“We decided that the only way to do this is to develop a body of empirical data which can guide the thinkers and the planners and the policymakers on tourism. But more importantly, we want to truly track the performance of this sector and be able to say to each critical economic stream ‘this is what tourism offers, this the demand that tourism generates for you the supplier’,” Bartlett said. He added that the capacity of the sector, as well as stakeholder participation should become more meaningful following the publication of the study.

“It will enable the bankers to develop a portfolio to deal with tourism suppliers. It will enable the agricultural planners to determine what kind of food is needed, what kind of crops to plant, what kind of livestock to rear and the agroprocessors will get to decide what kind of investments they will make in what processing facility,” Bartlett said. “It will advise the manufacturers as to what kind of products they are to manufacture, what volume of products are required and indeed what price point they will sell to be competitive. It will advise our utility providers. It will advise our telecommunications provider, it will advise our planners in distribution. It will advise our small and medium sized economic entities as to how to deal with their own element of contribution,” he added.

Minister Bartlett will be attending the upcoming celebration of the 52nd Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for the Americas together with the Technical Seminar on Tourism Investments in the Americas to be held in Asuncion, Paraguay on the 17 and 18th of May 2011. Jamaica sits on the executive council of the UNWTO..