Restore Jamaica’s Tourism Competitiveness for Higher Economic Growth – Joe Issa

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Former economics student at the renowned UK-based London School of Economics and Political Science Joe Issa has said that, if the Tourism industry is to contribute more towards economic growth, its competitiveness which has been falling over the years must be restored.

Submitted: February 10, 2017

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Submitted: February 10, 2017

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Former economics student at the renowned UK-based London School of Economics and Political Science Joe Issa has said that, if the Tourism industry is to contribute more towards economic growth, its competitiveness which has been falling over the years must be restored.

“Jamaica has been slipping badly over the years in the competitiveness of its main product – tourism – and that is as a result of the country falling short in several areas, which I see are now being addressed,” Issa says, adding, “We will realize the true potential of the sector in terms of its contribution to the economy, only when we have restored its competitiveness.”

Issa was speaking against the background of several policy measures being undertaken by the government to boost the tourism sector and the economy, including a pension scheme for tourism workers, additional tourism linkages networks which will leverage Jamaica’s prowess in sports, entertainment, culture, heritage, health and wellness, and gastronomy, as well as a new air services agreement with Canada, an enabling business environment, ICT readiness and improvement in safety and security of citizens.

Stating that the administration has selected the critical areas that need to be improved in order for Tourism and Jamaica to be more competitive, Issa says the thrust is long overdue as the sector has been allowed to slip for far too long.

Issa’s point is shown to be true by a series of biennial reports from as far back as 2007 when it was first published. In addition, the government’s recent choice of policy measures is found to be consistent with those found wanting by the reports and which need improvement in order to enhance the competitiveness of the tourism product and enable it to make a greater contribution to national development.

9 August 2007. 15 September 2008. 2 April 2009. 9 May 2010. 5 August 2011. From sub-prime to downgrade, the five stages of the most serious crisis to hit the global economy since the Great Depression can be found in those dates.

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) reports published by the World Economic Forum show that Jamaica’s competitiveness slipped 17 places between 2007 and 2011, during which, the global economy was hit by the most serious crisis since the Great Depression.

According to the Guardian, from sub-prime to downgrade, the global financial crisis occurred in five stages - 9 August 2007, 15 September 2008, 2 April 2009, 9 May 2010, and 5 August 2011. However, the problem remained even in better days, falling 11 more places to 76th between 2013 and 2015.

Analysts say by measuring the set of factors and policies that enable the tourism sector to grow sustainably and contribute to the development and competitiveness of the country, the TTCI is a tablet of policy prescriptions for countries seeking to address their deficiencies.

Benchmarking five enabling environment pillars and values – business environment, human resource and labour market, ICT readiness, health and wellness, and safety and security – Jamaica was found to have performed well below its top competitors over the years.

In the 2015 report, Jamaica’s overall index of 3.59 was a long way below the best in the world – Spain – with 5.32. CARICOM partner Trinidad & Tobago was seven places in front of Jamaica with 3.71.

In the individual pillars, the best in the world had an index of 6.13 in business environment, compared with Jamaica’s 4.44, and for safety and security it was 6.7 compared with 3.83 for Jamaica. In health and hygiene Jamaica had an index of 4.66 compared with the best global index of 6.97. For human resources and labour market Jamaica scored 4.61 compared with 5.64 by the world’s best, and in ICT readiness, the index for the global best was 6.3 compared with Jamaica’s travel and tourism competitive index of 3.7.

The TTIC report last year noted that much improvement is needed in all the pillars in order to get Jamaica on par with the major destinations, thus justifying the government’s latest policy initiatives taken to make tourism more competitive and increase its contribution to the economy.

Structure of T&TCI

 

Travel &Tourism (T&T) Regulatory Framework

 

T&T Business Environment & Infrastructure

T&T Human, Cultural & Natural Resources

  1. Policy rules & regulations

6. Air transport

infrastructure

11. Human capital

  1. Environmental regulation

7. Ground transportation

infrastructure

12. National tourism

Perception

  1. Safety & security

8. Tourism infrastructure

13. Natural  & cultural

Resources

  1. Health & Hygiene

9. ICT infrastructure

-

  1. Prioritization of T&T

10. Price competitiveness

-

The report blamed the decline in competitiveness on weaknesses in Safety and Security, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) readiness, while noting the relatively good marks earned in Business Environment, Health and Hygiene, and Human Resources and Labour Market.

Structure of T&TCI Travel &Tourism (T&T) Regulatory Framework T&T Business Environment & Infrastructure T&T Human, Cultural & Natural Resources 1. Policy rules & regulations 6. Air transport infrastructure 11. Human capital 2. Environmental regulation 7. Ground transportation infrastructure 12. National tourism Perception 3. Safety & security 8. Tourism infrastructure 13. Natural & cultural Resources 4. Health & Hygiene 9. ICT infrastructure - 5. Prioritization of T&T 10. Price competitiveness - The T&TCI said, however, that Jamaica has work to do in air transport infrastructure, protection of its natural and cultural resources as well as business travel, stating they were found to be common tourism and travel issues in Caribbean countries, most of which rely extensively on their famous beaches, but do not seem to sufficiently promote their cultural resources.

The report stated that Caribbean countries could further improve their competitiveness, if more is done to promote and leverage their cultural heritage. It noted that lower than expected performance on the Natural Resources pillar is partly due to a lack of UNESCO Natural Heritage sites and a low percentage of land being officially protected.

In a 2014 article in US-based news distributor PRWeb, Issa had backed the government’s application for inscription of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, stating this would enhance tourism and business.

And when the site finally made it to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2015, Issa was once again reported hailing the success, saying “it’s great news for Jamaica’s tourism product… Monetization and protection of the site should begin in earnest.”

While Jamaica was ranked 11 out of 141 for its Prioritization of Travel and Tourism, it fell badly to 99 in Price Competitiveness which Issa says, among others, “does not augur well for Jamaica…we have to become more affordable to visitors.”


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