$630-million tourism linkages speed networking success

Observer writer

Friday, March 22, 2019

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ROSE HALL, St James — Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) have earned $630 million in contracts from the much-acclaimed tourism linkages speed networking event over the past three years, according to Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett.

According to Bartlett, Speed Networking 2016 resulted in contracts valued at $181 million, the 2017 event saw suppliers benefiting from over $200 million in contracts, and in 2018 the value of these contracts grew to over $250 million.

Bartlett was speaking at this year's event held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James on Wednesday.

He said that Boss Furniture, for example, won a contract valued at $30 million to provide bedding and furnishings to Montego Bay's new S Hotel, while another $10 million in contracts with that property is in the pipeline.

“In addition, Boss Furniture CEO Omar Azan is also in negotiation with the Sandals and Hendrickson groups to supply their properties with locally made bedding and furniture. Also, Tortuga Rum Cakes negotiated a $500,000 contract with Half Moon Hotel. That's what we are talking about,” Bartlett said. “So this is excellent news for local SMTEs, and I am positive that this year's event will be equally lucrative for participants.”

He congratulated the Tourism Linkages Network and its partners — Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Jamaica Manufacturers' and Exporters Association (JMEA), Jamaica Promotions Corporation, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation — for the hard work “they have done to help us to be where we are today”.

“So we are using linkages now to overcome challenges in the supply in tourism,” he added.

JHTA President Omar Robinson said his association is committed to ensuring that its members support the local economy by purchasing more locally produced items which, in turn, provides a unique Jamaican experience to visitors.

Tourism Linkages Council Chairman Adam Stewart commended Bartlett for his achievements in developing the industry. He said Jamaica is possibly the hottest destination in the hemisphere.

“Our interest rates are at the lowest that they have ever been. Our unemployment is at the lowest that it has ever been. Our foreign reserves are in excess of US$3 billion. Jamaica has never had more visitor arrivals. We are the hottest destination in the English-speaking Caribbean and, I will say, this hemisphere,” Stewart said.

“We have more airlift than we have ever had before and more coming. We have more hotels coming into the country than we have ever had in history,” Stewart said, adding, “it has taken us 50 years to get to where we are and in the next 10 years we are going to literally add 50 per cent more to the economic impact of tourism in our country.”

President of the JMEA Metry Seaga encouraged the gathering to take part in the association's upcoming Jamaica International Exhibition scheduled for May 30 to June 1.

Seaga said the event is the only platform of its kind in Jamaica where local companies that are interested in penetrating overseas market or seeking local businesses can come to gather.

He said to date, there are 78 buyers registered from the United States, Canada, South America, United Kingdom, and the Caribbean.

The tourism linkages speed networking event, which was conceived in 2015, is aimed at strengthening linkages and increasing business between the tourism industry and local suppliers of goods and services.

Last year, the event had 56 supplier companies and 33 tourism entities in attendance. This year, it attracted 110 supplier companies and 57 tourism entities.

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