EDMUND Bartlett, the Government’s point man on the tourism sector, has determined that much more needs to be known about the possible impact of the approximately 20,000 new hotel rooms which are to be built in Jamaica over the next five to 10 years.
Opening the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Bartlett provided an update on the previously announced rooms boost in the tourism sector and noted that construction will take place in all parishes.
Providing further details while addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday, Bartlett noted that while the development of the new rooms provides enormous implications for Jamaica for growth it also asks for a lot from the country.
He said an evidence-based study is to be done to determine what is being asked of the country, what will be involved, and who will benefit.
“We have identified source of funds for this study to be done and I have had discussions with some multi-laterals — not ready yet to say which — that are willing to support this study especially [since] they think too that tourism is the driver, not just for the economy of Jamaica now, but for the entire Caribbean,” said Bartlett.
“What this study will seek to do is to identify and evaluate the potential impact of the proposed development on gross domestic product; foreign exchange earnings; investment and Government revenue; and expenditure.
“It will seek to identify and evaluate the potential impact of the proposed development on income and employment, both direct and indirect. It will [also] identify and evaluate the potential impact of the proposed development on key related sectors such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment,” added Bartlett.
The tourism minister told the media briefing that the study will also evaluate the impact of the 20,000 new rooms on infrastructure needs, the environment and the people, in particular the housing and transport requirements of the people who will work in these new rooms.
“It will provide recommendations to mitigate potential negative impacts while capitalising on the positive impacts and will provide credible, rigorous, evidence-based information…so that we can use that for public awareness programme and to build out the value chain of the tourism industry.”
According to Bartlett, this will be the first time that Jamaica is doing a study in this manner which will look at the implications of 20,000 new rooms while providing the opportunity to build resilience to address any natural vulnerabilities of Jamaica based on geography.
He said the unnamed multi-lateral agencies will be working with Jamaica on the study which will look at the future of tourism in Jamaica as well as its future in the Caribbean.
“I know that by early May I will have a sense of what kind of multi-lateral support we are going to be getting for the funding overall. But we have already made provisions in the budget for the preliminary work and we have done that on the basis that we are pretty sure we are going to get the partnership [from the multi-lateral],” said Bartlett.
Responding to questions from the Jamaica Observer, Bartlett said the request for proposals should be going out shortly and he is expecting to hear from entities interested in doing the study within the next three months.
But Bartlett did not provide a timeline on when he expects the study to be completed.
The 20,000 new hotel rooms include more than 100 at Palm Beach Villas; Secrets Resorts, 700 rooms; Bahia Principe, 2,500 rooms; as well as more than 900 rooms from the Sandals brand in St Ann.
In Trelawny, Harmony Cove is expected to add 1,000 rooms; Planet Hollywood, 650 rooms; RIU Aquarelle, 753 rooms and Excellence Oyster Bay, 50 rooms.
Bartlett said the projects for St James include Unico, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and associated resort developments, 2,000 rooms; Vista Ambassadors, 433; and Dreams Resort, 280 rooms.
Bartlett said Hanover will see 4,000 new rooms in the next three years. These include Princess Resort, more than 2,000 rooms; Grand Palladium, Negril, 950 rooms; Viva Wyndham, Negril, 1,000 rooms while the figure has not been finalised for Sandals Negril.