Head of the Tourism Linkages Hub, Carolyn McDonald-Riley highlights major achievements of the entity since its inception in 2013. The Hub is focused on positioning and assisting the tourism sector to increase its demand for and consumption of goods and services that can be competitively sourced in Jamaica. It integrates with and creates local opportunities for other sectors such as entertainment, agriculture and manufacturing.
Since its inception two years ago, the Tourism Linkages Hub has been reaping success through its efforts at strengthening the relationship between tourism and other sectors, such as manufacturing, agriculture and the creative industries.
The mission of the hub is to position the tourism sector to increase its demand for, and consumption of goods and services that can be competitively sourced in Jamaica, while strengthening the linkages between the industry and other sectors.
Head of the Tourism Linkages Hub, Carolyn McDonald-Riley, tells JIS News that the initiative has been bearing fruit, with positive impact on these key sectors as a result of the many events, networking sessions and business opportunities that have been undertaken.
“We look at how we can do more business with them (the sectors) and in so doing, build awareness that the tourism product, apart from what it is perceived to do for the country, also works at engaging the average man and building partnerships to enhance the development of sectors and Jamaica,” she points out.
An initiative which she deemed a major success is the ‘Agro-Tourism Farmers Market’ in the resort area of Negril, aimed at boosting the link between tourism and agriculture and promoting the consumption of local produce.
“We have provided a livelihood for 35 farmers who otherwise, would not have been selling at a market. The first market we reported, $14 million was exchanged, based on the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) doing its calculations. The second market was $8 million and the third, $6.5 million. What had happened is that the farmers now had relationships with the hotels, so they were now supplying them directly, so there was no need for them to come and buy as much produce at the market,” she explains.
Mrs. McDonald-Riley says that staging the event in a major resort exposes tourists to Jamaican fruits and foods, and that plans are afoot to replicate this market in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios and other areas surrounding the resorts.
The local manufacturing industry also holds great potential for the strengthening of linkages, as it comprises sub-sectors such as food and agro-processing, textiles and wearing apparel, furniture and wood products, which are linked to the delivery and supply of a diverse tourism product.
“Manufacturers have received contracts with the tourism sector as a result of us exposing them…the bedding and fibre glass industries have gotten contracts as a result of attending conferences and networking at events that the Hub has coordinated,” Mrs. McDonald-Riley further highlights.
A major event, she recalls, was the staging of the speed networking sessions in Montego Bay and Kingston, which entailed break-out meetings between Managing Directors/General Managers/Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of local supplier companies of products and services and owners/managers of properties, restaurants, attractions and other tourism entities.
Over 50 hotels and close to 100 businesses that offer products and services, such as chemicals and cleaning products, cosmetic and spa products, toiletries and guest amenities, craft, furniture, bedding, food and beverage, meat, uniform, printing and packaging, fresh produce, construction, training, ICT, electrical and entertainment, participated in the networking sessions.
“We have had a number of persons reporting that they have had contracts. The bedding industry reported that they have had approximately $40 million worth of (business). There are new projects reporting that they are only going to be using local bedding in the industry…some of our suppliers were in awe that the tourism industry was so receptive of them and the myth that we import everything was dispelled,” Mrs. McDonald-Riley tells JIS News.
The Linkages Hub continues to work with its partners to showcase local products, offerings and skills, and increase investment in the country.
Recently, the Hub and its partners staged ‘Christmas in July’, which saw some 80 local producers of authentic Jamaican gift and souvenir items showcasing their products and networking with corporate entities and various industry players.
In September, the Hub will play an integral role in the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) – the premier trade event and the single most important business generator for Jamaica’s tourism industry.
From September 20 to 22 in pre-scheduled appointments, wholesalers and tour operators will meet face to face with close to 200 of Jamaica’s leading tourism suppliers to conduct business negotiations.
Mrs. McDonald-Riley informs that by the end of the year, “We want to work with Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) to put on an expo called ‘Investment with Jamaicans’. We will be showcasing the various business opportunities in Jamaica, and how Jamaicans can invest here in Jamaica. It is saying to our Jamaican people, here are some things that you can look at…invest in these areas.”
A key area which the Hub will be focusing on is filling some of the demand gaps within the entertainment and manufacturing sectors.
She notes, for example, that the hub has been working with the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce and the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) to identify persons and entities to address the shortage and demand for uniforms.
“We had to look closely at the uniform sector, as this is a market that is very much underserved. For the hotel industry alone, we need three to four different uniforms for one hotel as it employs hundreds of workers and each person needs at least four sets of uniforms, so it is a huge market,” she says.
Mrs. McDonald-Riley adds that gaps have also been identified in entertainment, in terms of entertainment managers, sound engineers, disc jockeys and performers.
She points out that hoteliers and other business entities were able to identify and source entertainment groups and personnel from this year’s staging of Arts in the Park, where local dance talents showcased their skills.
The Tourism Linkages Hub is a collaborative effort, led by the Ministry of Tourism, and includes partnership with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), JMA, JAMPRO, and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA).
Published Date: August 13th, 2015
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