Crime holding back tourism — Adam Stewart

Crime holding back tourism — Adam Stewart

BY RICHARD BROWNE
Business Editor
browner@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

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THE number one problem holding back the development of Jamaican tourism is crime, according to Adam Stewart, deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts International and the Appliance Traders Ltd Group, and the Jamaica Observer Ltd.

“Crime is the number one problem, Stewart said to some 200 attendees at the Mayberry Investors' Breifing at the AC Hotel Kingston near New Kingston last Wednesday.

“If we can reduce crime by 50 per cent we will have five million tourists in five years,” Stewart said, who was speaking mainly in his capacity as chairman of the Tourism Linkages Council.

Jamaica is consitently ranked as having one of the highest murder rates in the world. In 2017 a total of 1,616 people were murdered. A policy of several States of Emergency was introduced in 2018, and the tally was reduced to 1,287 lives taken in 2018.

But Stewart noted that Jamaicans are the hardest workers for Sandals across the seven terrirtories it does business in.

“Tourism is a live, breathing thing. It is an industry that doesn't stop.” It needs entertainmemt, gastromony and culture, he said, and noted “manufacturing and agriculture are the two super powers of tourism linkages”.

Stewart said; “lots of things are happening in Jamaica now that I did not think I'd see.”

The list of positives included Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund praising Jamaica for its economic performance, low interest rates and bringing Jamaica's debt ratio to below 100 per cent.

With some three million tourists per year, creating US$3.6 billion in earning, he said there was a need to not increase the number of tourists but to rather increase their spend, through offering better experiences.

“Only eight per cent of tourists are coming to Jamaica for gastronomy,” Stewart noted. “We have an awesome story to tell,” he said, noting that Jamaica also has mountains, rivers, beaches and reggae.

“We punch above our weight.” But “economically we have grown at one third the global rate”, he said.

AGRICULTURE AND MANUFACTURING

On agriculture, Stewart said that the country has some 250,000 small farmers, but that they need to become more organised in a productive way.

“As fast as it can be produced, it can be consumed,” Stewart said. He noted that berries are now being grown for the hotel market and that other opportunities lie in areas such as potatoes.

Jamaica imports some 20 million pounds of potatoes, Stewart said, adding “one way or another the hotels are going to buy what they need, whether from St Elizabeth, Miami or Idaho”.

On the area of experiences, Stewart noted that the number of visitors coming for carnival has tripled, while Sumfest is the world's largest show of that genre.

More recently, the Blue Mountain Coffee Festival was created to put the spotlight on that world-class product. Stewart noted that Sandals pours some 8.4 million cups of bBue Mountain coffee across its resorts per year.

For manufacturing, Stewart noted that more than 50,000 businesses are registered in Jamaica and that manufactiring in Jamaica is much bigger than people realise, especially in the area of technical ability.

CONSOLIDATION

Another topic was the subject of consolidation in tourism. Stewart noted that Starwood, with some 1200 hotels across the globe, could not compete and was taken over by the Marriot group, which he said opens a new hotel every eight hours.

Stewart said that the consolidation that was going on in the industry would mean less personalisation, particularly for sellers.

“We Jamaicans need to become more commercial and make it easier for these large corporations to buy Jamaican products,” he said.


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