Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett has stated that operators of Small and Medium sized Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) are poised to benefit from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Global Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, scheduled to take place in Montego Bay, November 27-28, 2017.
The benefit to SMTEs comes from a major focus of the conference, which will advise operators about the development of sustainable business models, the Tourism Minister informed, noting that, “sustainable tourism models include: nature-based tourism, ecotourism and cultural tourism that are seen as the sector’s best prospects for growth.”
“In our rapidly changing consumer market, sustainable business models are essential for long term success. Once regarded as alternative models, sustainable tourism is now projected to come into the mainstream of the industry.”
He also pointed out that 2017 has been designated as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
“The conference will explore best practices for inclusive growth, by expanding community tourism to generate inclusive economic growth and decrease tourism leakage,” Minister Bartlett explained. “It will strengthen linkages between tourism and non-tourism sectors focusing on: gastronomy, shopping, health and wellness as well as, knowledge, entertainment and sports.”
The Tourism Minister said that sessions at the conference will highlight best practices to strengthen the framework for financial support for SMTEs.
In 2015, the World Bank noted that 80 percent of tourism in the Caribbean is driven by SMTEs, and, therefore, the development of the sector depends on their success.
Earlier this year World Bank Country Manager, Galina Sitrova, also pointed out that SMTEs can play an important role in the viability of the Jamaican tourism product. She posited that the increasing popularity of environmental and community tourism, as well as the bed and breakfast concept, meant that operators of SMTEs will need more support to diversify their tourism product.
Hotelier Fabio Favalli, owner of the San San Tropez Hotel and Villas, a 20-bedroom facility in Portland, said that, “the greatest benefit from this conference will be the exploration of issues that can help small hoteliers.”
He also wants special emphasis to be placed on community tourism. “When all the hotels in Port Antonio are full, the town benefits because in addition to the jobs provided directly, other sectors benefit; and that results in growth in the town.”
Minister Bartlett pointed out that a segment of the conference will highlight the viability of community tourism, to ensure that all sectors benefit from the industry and indicated that a key outcome from the global conference will be the Montego Bay Declaration.
“From this declaration, an action plan will flow, with measurable goals for tourism destinations to pursue and the second volume of the UNWTO Global Report on Public Private Partnerships will also be published,” he said. “We are also collaborating with Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association (CHTA) to establish the groundwork for a more sustainable tourism future.”
Minister Bartlett explained that, “Another element of the conference includes tours of community tourism projects for development and commercial bank representatives, with a view to advising how to build out a truly sustainable tourism product, which will create jobs and generate income, while protecting and preserving heritage and cultural practices.”
He pointed out that representatives of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) will also participate in the conference to highlight access to financing for industry participants. The TEF has committed over $1 billion for well-needed SMTE loans to boost the sustainable growth of the sector. These loan facilities are administered by National Export-Import Bank of Jamaica (EXIM Bank) as well as JN Small Business Loans.
Gillian Hyde, general manager, JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL), which has been supporting small entrepreneurs in tourism enterprises, is optimistic that the conference will benefit SMTEs and the Jamaican economy.
“As a company which provides support for members of the sector through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), we believe that the UNWTO conference will provide opportunities for SMTEs to be accommodated and to showcase their products and services,” she stated.
Mrs. Hyde also noted that, “From a policy standpoint, it will help to prepare us for the future, as SMTEs become one of the dominant players in the industry, which can only augur well for the sector and the Jamaican economy.”
The November conference is the largest international tourism conference to be held in the region.