High-stakes meeting to discuss US$4b hotel investments | Business

High-stakes meeting to discuss US$4b hotel investments | Business




Experts will meet with state technocrats today to discuss the implications of raising the island’s hotel room count to 50,000 rooms in five years.

The island will benefit from some US$4 billion in investments to develop these new rooms, which equates to roughly one year’s earnings from the sector. Most of these developments are slated for the tourism belt along the north coast; but St Thomas, traditionally one of the poorest parishes, will also get a chunk of those new rooms.

The meeting will give the experts time to ask questions on issues and concerns.

The Financial Gleaner awaits responses to queries on the meeting sent to government adviser Delano Seiveright. He indicated his willingness to respond.

These experts, however, are associated with firms that are vying to work with the Ministry of Tourism to create a study that outlines the impact of these proposed new rooms on the wider society.

“The study aims to identify the economic, fiscal, social and environmental impact of the development of an additional twenty thousand rooms to augment Jamaica’s existing room stock,” stated the Ministry of Tourism in its tender document obtained by The Financial Gleaner.

Jamaica has some 31,510 rooms across a range of types of accommodations, according to the tender document ‘The Addition of 20,000 Rooms to Jamaica’s Tourism Room Stock—a Multi-Dimensional Impact Assessment’.

It is projected that over the next five to 10 years, an additional 15,000 to 20,000 rooms will be added. The parishes that will see the largest rise in additional rooms are St Ann with 4,200, Hanover with 4,000, St James with 2,710, Trelawny with 2,450, and St Thomas with 1,000.

“The resulting data will better guide public policy choices and the public discussion of the value of tourism to the Jamaican economy. The assignment is expected to last eight months,” added the ministry.

The Government wants tourism to lift Jamaicans out of poverty, while also fuelling economic growth.

At times, however, the Government has expressed the concern voiced by experts on the inequity within the tourism sector.

Some of the objectives of the study include evaluating the potential impact on economic growth, investment, taxes, employment, salaries, and so on. It also wants to know the impact on agriculture, construction, manufacturing, entertainment, environment, housing, transport and recreation.

The tourism sector, despite grappling with pandemic-induced disruptions, will earn US$4.5 billion this year, surpassing the prior pre-pandemic record of US$3.6 billion in 2019.

Earlier this year, the Government, in its filing to the US Securities & Exchange Commission, outlined that there are scores of hotel developments planned over the next five years, with the 16 largest set to invest US$2.3 billion, providing thousands of jobs.

Over the past two decades, there have been efforts to improve the “rigour” of the measurement of the impact of the tourism industry. For instance, previous landmark studies on the sector include the 2011 study ‘Assessment of Economic Impact of the Tourism Sector in Jamaica’, by Nathan Associates. Before that, a 1998 study, ‘Tourism in Jamaica: An Economic Analysis’, by Pacific Analytics; also, a 1994 study ‘Economic Analysis of Tourism in Jamaica’ by the donor group Organisation of American States.

“Irrespective of the valuable insights provided by these studies, tourism development has changed significantly since the most recent was completed. Indeed, a key component that was missing from these studies is an assessment of the social, infrastructural, and environmental impacts of tourism developments. This is critical, given the increased attention to sustainability issues in tourism development planning,” stated the ministry.



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