Jamaica builds strong foundations to welcome new markets


One reason for this increase in footfall is possibly the change in demographics that the Caribbean is witnessing and working towards catering to. “[We are] looking at opening new gateways to Asia, America, Middle East but also to diversify the demographics. It is the moment for the Caribbean to build local capacity to absorb these new markets. One billion new tariffs are expected to be added to the travelscape the next 25 to 30 years,” explains Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism in an interview with TTN Middle East.

“We were increasing our human capacity to deal with this, with newer training. Also, we have to make tourism more attractive for the young people, in particular.”

Jamaica is at the centre of this growth and has already set up the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation, which is a part of a Training and Certification Institute. “We’re working with the American Hotel and Lodging Institute of America and pulling our foundation to create the certification that is acceptable internationally. So, in that way, we’re making workers mobile, giving them opportunity for over more upward mobility within the organisation and also portability to move from one part of the world to the other,” says Bartlett.


The UNIDO had indicated that 80 per cent of tourism was small and medium enterprises, but only 20 per cent of the returns from tourism went to them. We saw the asymmetry there and said, ‘Okay, we have to rebalance that anomaly
– Edmund Bartlett



The country is also working on offering social security to its workers. “Jamaica has the only tourism workers pension plan in the entire world. Meaning, every worker, anyone who works within the tourism space, as long as 30 percent of their gainful employment is derived from tourism-related activity, they are eligible for it,” he adds. 

Tourism is clearly very important to Jamaica, and so it’s also putting its muscle behind helping people gather the skill sets they require to service the industry. “We have to bring that consciousness to the young, to create a curriculum for them in the high schools. And Jamaica has established a programme of an associate degree in healthcare management and customer service at the high school level so that every year we’ll be turning out  young, qualified entrants into the tourism industry,” he adds.

The country is also looking at expanding its ability to welcome tourists. “We are looking at expanding our rooms, we’re looking at 20,000 new rooms over the next 10-16 years,” says Bartlett.



Among the new openings this year are Princess Grand Jamaica, which is set to open on Green Island Hanover in June. The 590-suite resort will feature everything from kids’ pools to waterslides. The same company, Princess, will simultaneously also launch the adults-only retreat of Princess Senses The Mangrove on Green Island. With 415 ocean-view suites and 14 overwater villas, the trip here promises to be unforgettable.

Meanwhile, the 753-room Hotel Riu Palace Aquarelle will open its doors in Falmouth, Jamaica in summer.



Jamaica is also looking at embracing new tech. “Digitisation is critical to the new exponential tourism,” explains Bartlett. 

And it’s focused on enabling small and medium tourism enterprises (SME). “We wanted to develop a strategy and set the policies in relation to them. We’ve put three distinct policy areas at work. One is to train and develop a capacity for smaller enterprises. We train young entrepreneurs to manage the business, basic accounting, how to write a business plan, and how to deal with marketing and then also utilise platforms for digital marketing.

“The second element of it is financing. We established a facility at the ExIm Bank in June. We put 1 billion Jamaican dollars and lending to these enterprises, at affordable interest rates.”

“The third is marketing. So we run the whole journey,” he explains.

For the small agricultural producers, he adds, Jamaica has created a platform called Alex where the small farmers have a chance now to connect with the purveyors of hotels directly. “Last year, we had 1 billion Jamaican dollars of trading on the back of Alex,” he says.



The seed to enable these SMTs has been in the offing for years. “We develop[ed] a whole concept around the small and medium tourism enterprise and actually wrote a paper on it for the G20 meeting that was held in Argentina in 2017. The UNIDO [United Nations Industrial Development Organization] at the time had indicated that 80 per cent of tourism was small and medium enterprises, but only 20 per cent of the returns from tourism went to them. We saw the asymmetry there and said, ‘Okay, we have to rebalance that anomaly’,” says Bartlett.

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s ‘Come Back’ ad campaign, launched back in 2022, continues to pay dividends. The initiative aims to invite global visitors to explore the island’s offerings, from the Rastafari Indigenous Village to indulging in the finest coffee in the world along the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Trail.