Golding wants more tourism dollars flowing to local economy

PEOPLE’S National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding on Sunday promised that a future Government led by him will deal with what he labelled “enclave tourism”, which he said does not allow for more revenue flowing from the industry to the local economy.

Additionally, Golding told cheering PNP supporters, who had packed National Arena in St Andrew for the public session of the party’s 85th annual conference, that “the vexed issue of beach access” was on his to-do list if he is elected to office.

“Our economy, as everyone knows, has become heavily dependent on tourism. It is a major contributor to the GDP and employment. It is one of the country’s fastest-growing industries that directly employs 175,000 Jamaicans and generates indirect employment for another 354,000 people. Yet tourism should be contributing far more to the national economy,” Golding said.

“Most of the earnings from tourism never come into Jamaica. The larger hotels have adopted an enclave model where guests enjoy their entire visit by staying within the hotel or going on tours organised by the hotel. This means the benefits of the sector do not sufficiently drive the local economy, even though significant portions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on advertising Jamaica to promote the industry,” he argued.

The Government, Golding claimed, “wants to expand that model to the benefit of a few”. However, “the next PNP Government”, he insisted “will take things in the right direction by transitioning away from enclave tourism to a more inclusive model that is integrated into the Jamaican economy”.

To achieve that, incentives will be provided to hotels which integrate their business models with the local community and economy, he explained.

In relation to beach access the Opposition leader said “as Jamaica sells more sand and sea to the hotel industry, local communities are losing access to beaches as a place where families can enjoy themselves and fishing communities can thrive”.

This, he said, only gets worse with each announcement of a major hotel development project.

“Each time, yet another beach is removed from public use. Imagine growing up going to a beach, creating lasting memories with friends and family, and then one day a fence or a wall is built and you are cut off from your beach and memories,” Golding said.

“This form of social exclusion has become a prejudicial line against ordinary Jamaicans. These things create vexation in the nation as beach exclusion reminds us of our long history of injustice. The people have a legitimate complaint, and the next PNP Government will address this issue,” Golding told his supporters.

“We will work with all stakeholders to implement a progressive beach access policy. The State has leverage to protect the public interest, as the Beach Control Act makes provision for the acquisition of rights over private land to provide beach access to the public. The PNP will use this tool in the public interest, and we will adjust it if we have to because we have a vision of tourism that is in harmony with ordinary Jamaican people,” he added.

“We will partner with tourism investors to secure appropriate rights of access for the public to be able to enjoy our beaches, while at the same time allowing tourism to contribute even more to the economic well-being of investors and Jamaica at large,” he said.

When asked in an interview with journalists after his address to elaborate on his proposal to address “enclave tourism” Golding said a Government led by him would “work that through” with the hotel sector.

“But it’s very important to focus on that to make the tourism industry more inclusive for Jamaicans [so that] more benefits can flow to the local economy from it,” he said.

“We started the whole issue of linkages under Wykeham McNeil when he was minister. It’s been continued under this Government, it needs to go further. But for the future, for a sustainable tourism product, we have to find ways of making tourism mean a lot more for the local economy, so we’ll be working out the parameters of what would make sense for the tourism industry to encourage them to move in that direction,” he said.