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'£1m well spent'

Gov't defends London expenditure

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Senior staff reporter douglasl@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 21, 2012    

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The Government yesterday declared that its promotional activities at the London Olympics have already begun to reap rewards, and said more business will flow in tourism, exports and investments in the near future.

The Government also defended the sending of five ministers to London and the expenditure of £1 million to stage Jamaica House 2012 at the O2 Arena, a special facility showcasing Jamaica's authentic products while marketing the country's business opportunities and the tourism industry.

"I think it would have been irresponsible if they were not there as policymakers to answer the questions of the persons we were inviting to Jamaica and who we want to do business with," Information Minister Sandrea Falconer stated at a post-Olympics press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.

"I think sometimes we quibble over the smallest things and we speak about a few dollars when, if our policymakers had not gone, we would have lost out on bigger things."

Falconer was flanked by three senior ministers — Roger Clarke (agriculture), Anthony Hylton (industry and commerce), and Dr Wykeham McNeil (tourism and entertainment) — as well as tourism junior minister Damion Crawford who all made the trip to London as part of what they termed a "joined-up government" effort to secure benefits for the country in the wake of the outstanding performance of the country's Olympic team.

Of the budget for the effort, £150,000 came from sponsorship. The figure, however, does not include the bill for travel and accommodation of the four government ministers — including sports minister Natalie Neita-Headley — and five other persons who assisted the ministerial delegation.

Crawford's trip was paid for by the Caricom secretariat, Dr McNeil disclosed.

"Jamaica House was a huge success, maybe more successful than we had the capacity to maintain, but is certainly a concept we will use moving forward," Dr McNeil said in defending the promotional effort. "I think it would have been a disgrace if we had not used the London Olympics to maximise the benefits (to the country)."

Dr McNeil also disclosed that visitor arrivals from the UK are showing a six per cent increase for May through August over last year, after showing a nine per cent decline last year.

Ministers McNeil and Hylton defended Crawford's role in London, saying that the dreadlocked minister hosted a high-level forum on the effect on Caricom of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, among other things.

While in the UK, Crawford had 'tweeted' that he and several Jamaican entertainers who performed there "shell dung a club in London", a slang term indicating that they found time to party in the UK capital.

Among the things they said were achieved in England were:

* Meetings with over 300 travel agents and tour operators;

* 600 accredited media filing stories about Jamaica House;

* More than 2,000 visitors to Jamaica House per day for 10 days;

* 36,000 new seats from UK confirmed for next year;

* Meetings with 500 potential investors, distributors and business partners;

* 13 investment leads made in manufacturing and business process outsourcing, etc

* $14 million in retail sales for 95 local manufacturers;

* 340 million viewers reached through broadcast;

* 30,000 consumers exposed to Jamaican products at Birmingham event;

* Meeting with consortium on sale of fresh produce to UK; and

* Meeting with an investor on the sale of a cocoa farm in St Mary.

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