By Nicola Madden Greig,
President, Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association
Madame Chair; Mrs. Sandra Scott, Deputy Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board;
Donovan Perkins, Chairman, Tourism Linkage Council;
Mrs. Shulette Cox, Vice President Policy & Corporate Division,
JAMPRO Councillors and members of the JHTA;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen…

I am very pleased to be addressing you this morning to announce the Most important annual event for Jamaica's hospitality and tourism Industry - the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), which is scheduled For Sunday September 21 - Tuesday, September 23, 2014.

As many of you are aware, JAPEX brings together the stakeholders From the industry - hoteliers, airlines, attractions and allied Members -with overseas wholesalers, tour operators and travel Agents.

This is where the business of tourism takes centre stage as we give Updates on the industry, negotiate contracts, rates and generally Ensure that Jamaica remains the market leader among Caribbean Tourism destinations. This, i might add is becoming increasingly Difficult as Jamaica competes with scores of international and Caribbean destinations both established and emerging. We all know that tourism is a key driver of the Jamaican economy And plays a major role in generating taxes, employment, income and Foreign exchange inflows.

Tourism also has strong linkages to other productive sectors Including manufacturing, agriculture, retail, finance and fisheries Impacting a wide cross section of the economy. We're not just Hotels, restaurants and attractions; we invest substantial sums in Construction, machinery and equipment too.

Ladies and gentlemen, tourism is undisputedly an export industry. It Is the core driver of the Jamaican economy. It is the number 1 Industry in share size and has registered consistent growth albeit Marginal over the past decade, in a time when many industries have Been in decline.

And so, you will understand when i say that we must be careful not To create disincentives to investment.

While we have done well in attaining the benchmarks set by the IMF, The government, in particular, must ensure any new measures does Not inhibit growth but actually stimulates further growth. We fully recognize government's need for tax reform. We appreciate The work that has gone into the fiscal incentives act to streamline Incentives across industries.

However, the competitive landscape for tourism in the Caribbean has Changed dramatically overnight. Many of our competitors are now Giving time-guaranteed incentives where some companies can now Enjoy as much as 40 year tax-breaks. In those countries tourism has Now been fully classified as an export industry. This obviously is a Great attraction for capital looking to invest and this is what we Are competing with. It also allows the opportunity to establish more Favourable pricing strategies.

We therefore encourage the government to review its position on How tourism is treated, recognize it fully as an export industry and Ensure any current impediments for growth are removed. The jhta Stands ready to participate in discussions that will ensure a pathway For serious growth and investment for Jamaica.

And so ladies and gentlemen, as we prepare for JAPEX 2014, we are Very mindful that t he popularity and success of tourism Destinations are to a great extent driven by ones ability to remain Competitive in a hyper competitive markeplace.

This year, we welcome the participation of the tourism linkages Council as we present a fully-integrated cohesive hospitality and Tourism industry that benefits all Jamaica.

Tourism is the only industry that can expand the domestic market for Goods and services from our roughly 2.8 million residents by adding Over 3.2 million visitors or more - so creating more opportunities For local companies to take advantage of that potential visitor Spend is critical.

As we work to secure new market segments, this year we will begin JAPEX on Sunday, with two workshops - one on disability etiquette & Awareness workshop, and the second on the Latin American market. The offical opening by the Minister Of Tourism, Hon. Wykeham Mcneil Will be at 7 pm followed by a welcome reception at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

Our opening ceremony this year will also incorporate an opportunity For our buyers to see Jamaica's potential as a destination wedding Locale by a walk through of the Jamaica bridal expo also taking place That weekend.

The ever-important buyer and seller delegate appointments take Place over the following two days, and sandals resorts International will, as usual, present a "Jamaica evening" on September 22, 2014.

Already we have registered 210 supplier delegates and 75 buyer Delegates including representatives of hotels, attractions, airlines And ground transportation companies.

Our suppliers come from a range of countries including the usa, Australia, the Czech republic, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico and the united kingdom, confirming that The Jamaica brand is still very popular across the world. Ladies and gentlemen, JAPEX 2014 has all the hallmarks of an Outstanding and successful marketplace. Everyone is eager to Present the new products, upgraded facilities, service, attractions And road network connectivity with the new north-south highway That will take Jamaica beyond being just a place for sun, sea and sand Opening up resort areas of pt. Antonio and Kingston, in particular. From all indication, our partners are excited to see what's new in Jamaica and are ready to sell.

Thank You.