ROSE HALL, St James — Discussions have begun to have the lucrative
segment of Jamaica’s tourism sector, which raked in more than US$100 million last year, become part of the “formal system”.
Speaking with journalists in Montego Bay on Tuesday, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said that was one of the issues he had raised a day earlier with the Cabinet.
“The development of this particular business model and also this broader layer of economic activity, like everything else, will have to get into the formal system. Because, for one, the destination assurance strategy that we are embracing has to ensure that the visitor who goes anywhere in Jamaica is safe, secure, and has a seamless experience,” the minister said.
“So we have to look now at the licensing regimes that are going to have to become a renewed feature of the tourism experience. And only yesterday [Monday] I started a major discussion with the Cabinet around the issue of looking at the Tourism Act and to review various areas of it. I think that we will be reviewing all the models we are embracing now and the physical landscape will have to reflect the models that are in tourism,” he added.
In his earlier address during the media breakfast at Jamaica Product Exchange (Japex), the flagship event of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Bartlett noted that 29 per cent of Jamaica’s stopover visitors stayed at Airbnb-listed properties last year.
“The traditional thinking that will come to a hotel is giving way, not by way of exclusion, but by way of further inclusion so that our traditional accommodation will grow and continue to grow, but we’re going to be seeing new and exciting addition to that landscape,” he noted.
The minster believes that the millions being raked in by the rapidly growing Airbnb segment of the market augers well for the retention of the tourism dollar in Jamaica.
“The reality, in terms of revenue, is that just a little over US$100 million of actual earnings went into the pockets of these ordinary Jamaicans who have been part of the shared economy. That’s exciting for us because what that is doing for us is it is broadening the tourism value chain and enabling more and more of the Jamaican people to benefit from tourism and for a larger level of retention of the tourism dollar into our economy,” Bartlett said.
He noted that this year has seen even more growth within the segment.
“Twenty-nine per cent represents [between] 400,000 [and] 500,000 people who would have come through that channel last year. I’m seeing an uptick, so at a later point I will be able to share with you what the numbers are for 2023,” Bartlett told journalists.
Investment in real estate, which is then used to generate rental income, has become popular in Jamaica. Both locals and visitors patronise these properties, especially when there are large entertainment events such as Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay and Dream Weekend in Negril.
Last March, Bartlett pointed out that an Airbnb can be found in every parish.
“This has added to our tourism offerings, where there is now something for everybody. Every day, Airbnb hosts offer unique stays and experiences that make it possible for guests to connect with communities in a more authentic way. It thrills us to hear some of the stories from our Jamaican hosts… many who will readily tell you that they had no idea it was this easy to be a part of the tourism sector,” the minister noted then.
Japex, which began on Monday, ends Wednesday with a closing event at Sandals Montego Bay.