Bartlett Returns as Jamaica Tourism Minister
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Andrew Holness has promised a “frugal and efficient” government following his election last week as Jamaica’s new prime minister. The country’s new leader quickly made good on that vow, returning Edmund Bartlett, a former minister of tourism, to the post Monday.
Bartlett was sworn in this week as part of a sweeping government change under which Holness named 14 ministries headed by 18 cabinet-level ministers. Bartlett replaces Wykeham McNeill, who was named tourism minister in 2011 as part of Portia Simpson Miller’s new government. McNeill at that time replaced Bartlett, who had served as tourism minister since 2007 under the government led by Bruce Golding.
Bartlett has remained involved in Jamaican politics the past two years as a shadow minister of foreign affairs and trade. He will be challenged to duplicate McNeill’s success in term of visitor arrivals. Jamaica hosted 2.1 million visitors in 2015 and has recorded more than two million visitors in each of the past two years, with each year representing a record total for the country.
Jamaica ranks third in annual visitor arrivals among the 28 destinations tracked by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, exceeded only by the Dominican Republic and Cuba. The country has added a series of new resorts in recent years and is poised for further growth as Karisma Group last year announced a plan to open 4,000 hotel rooms on Jamaica’s north shore within the next decade. Ocean by H10 Hotels will add another 800 rooms in Montego Bay’s Trelawny district.
Jamaica recorded 1.95 million arrivals in 2011, Bartlett’s last year in office. That same year he gained attention, and some criticism, for his plan to increase contributions to Jamaica’s Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) through a doubling of fees on entering visitors to $20. The fee hike was opposed by politicians, International Air Transport Association (IATA) officials and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association.
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TEF, established in 2005 to fund projects in Jamaica’s Tourism Master Plan, has since been credited with several programs that have restored cultural and heritage sites in towns, parks, nature reserves and beaches across Jamaica.
The projects have included a major rehabilitation of public infrastructure in the Ocho Rios resort district including a renovation of the city’s cruise ship terminal. TEF most recently sponsored a $400,000 restoration of the west wing of the Milk River Hotel and Spa, in Clarendon.
TEF projects continue to be funded through the $20 fee charged on incoming airline passengers and a $2 charge on cruise passengers that Bartlett established. Both fees are bundled into travelers’ retail ticket charges.
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