Tourism has in the past been a national priority and one of the sectors of the Jamaican economy that has flourished, leading to somewhat of an economic imbalance. Last year alone our country had an increase of approximately 6% in tourist visiting and revenue increased a whopping 12.1%. This is equivalent to about US$3 billion which is a large increase from the year before. With all that money coming in, there is no question about the economic benefits of job creation and tourism helping to raise tax revenues, however, the costs far outweigh the benefits.
This sector has been known to overwork and underpays laborers, especially youths. In addition, the revenue earned from tourism does little to help with the improvement of the country’s poor infrastructure and any investment is primarily targeted to main tourist destinations. There have also been failed attempts to protect our natural resources that have been depleted by the dominance of tourism in parts of the country and to protect citizens and visitors from the surging crime rate.
So, where does the money go? This sector is dominated by powerful hoteliers who ensure that their political connections support their agendas. So much so that Prime Minister’s first act was to give them a billion-dollar line of credit, while Montego Bay was bleeding. Areas like sports, music, and cultural landscapes have been neglected in the process. Our archaic, privately held and non-focused management styles have stifled our creativity. Creativity and proper management must be fostered.
The much-needed change in this sector requires:
- Government controlling of all foreign receipts.
- All food products purchased by Hoteliers must be provided by local producers.
- For Private Hoteliers, a minimum of 25% profit must be invested in our country.
- The payment to our workers must be aligned with industry standards worldwide. All entertainers employed must be locals first.
- All parish must be retrofitted with an entertainment center to stage festivals for tourists and locals.
- The preservation of our natural environment and the protection of our reefs to maintain our standard.
- All our historic sites must be preserved and marketed. For example, Port Royal must be a tourist attraction.
- Jamaica’s natural beauty and goodwill abroad must be utilized so that it receives the majority of the monies spent annually on tourism in the Caribbean.
- Our music, Reggae-the black gold, if utilized properly, will impact our economy in a dramatic fashion and reduce unemployment.
- Each community will also utilize the Centre for various charitable and private endeavors. The revival of our cultural heritage will be prioritized with the re-introduction of street dances staged in the concert centers in each parish.
- Our natural and historical sites must be preserved in their natural states so as to maintain a magnetic allure.
- Statues of prominent Jamaicans, who have received worldwide recognition in their respective fields, will be erected in their parishes at the entrance of the concert centers. Talent and educational events will be part of this new focus.
- JPM will encourage the growth and expansion of cottage industries geared at the tourist market. Jamaica Producers (JAMPRO) and the Jamaica Tourist Board will be the locomotives of this new holistic approach - the entire country will be a tourist attraction.