A plea for unity in tourism – Jamaica Observer


Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association president Robin Russell spoke at the TEF speed networking event in Montego Bay on Thursday. (Photo: Horace Hines)

MONTEGO BAY, St. James — Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association president Robin Russell has blasted people he accuses of damaging the hospitality industry with negative narratives that pit small and large entrepreneurs against each other for market share.

“There are some critics who try to sell the narrative of the big guy versus the little guy, and I believe that hurts the industry and those of us who are trying to make that distinction,” argued a fired-up Russell.

“But can more be done? The answer will always be yes – and that’s why we’re here today (Thursday). And I thank the players who made this possible,” Russell said.

He added: “There has never been a better opportunity than now to achieve our goals. What I would say is that Jamaica is doing very well – or we are doing very well because we were first to market – and as that competition intensifies it is important that we keep our narrative positive.

“It’s important that we continue to build on what we’ve worked very hard to build, not tear down,” added Russell, who was backed by Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

“I’m happy about what President Robin said a little while ago about the atmosphere that needs to prevail to allow the industry to continue to grow and recover and the industry to thrive, because it’s one thing for us to recover – because the recovery brings you back to zero – [but] thriving after recovery is challenging,” Bartlett asserts.

The tourism minister charged that “Some people think that recovery means that everything has to happen and that recovery means that the pie is bigger, but what recovery means is that you have a pie and the pie is there, but what the rebuild brings, many times, is more players wanting a piece of the pie. So unless you expand the pie, the slices will get thinner and thinner or some people will get nothing,” explained the tourism minister.

“So instead of making big statements about the pie and who doesn’t get the pie, let’s start a conversation about how to grow the pie to make it bigger so that more people can enjoy a piece of the pie or even on a larger scale,” added Bartlett.

The two tourism chiefs spoke on Thursday at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, where the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) was hosting a speed networking event. This offered a unique business-to-business opportunity for local manufacturers to supply the tourism industry.

The event format included pre-scheduled 15-minute meetings between managing directors, general managers and CEOs of local supplier companies and owners/managers of properties, restaurants, attractions and other tourism entities.

A meeting platform was used throughout the day to ensure manufacturers were matched with buyers interested in the products or services they offered.

According to Bartlett, millions of dollars worth of deals have been negotiated for goods and services in the eight years TEF has hosted the Speed ​​Networks Initiative.

“When you consider that since 2016, excluding the pandemic years 2020 and 2021, travel suppliers have earned about $653 million from participating in speed network events, it can be reasonably argued that in the eight years of its existence, close to one billion dollars in goods and services are traded right here because all of our vendors are Jamaican manufacturers, many of whom aspire as small and medium entrepreneurs in tourism,” noted Bartlett.

“This year, nearly 150 participants, representatives of tourism entities, suppliers and HR, registered [human resource] managers,” Bartlett added.

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