US Ambassador's speech to the JHTA, June 2
- [This forwarded by Franklin McDonald of Jamaica
>From: "Franklin McDonald" <fmcdonald@...>--
>Subject: Fw: US Ambassador's speech to the JHTA, June 2
>Date: Tue, 4 Jun 2002 13:19:01 -0500
>Organization: National Environment & Planning Agency
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <mailto:ECLKGN@...>Lewis, Emma C
>To: <mailto:LewisEC@...>Lewis, Emma
>Sent: Tuesday, June 04, 2002 11:35 AM
>Subject: US Ambassador's speech to the JHTA, June 2
>REMARKS BY U.S. AMBASSADOR SUE M. COBB
>JAMAICA HOTEL AND TOURIST ASSOCIATION
>JUNE 1, 2002
>Thank you for that warm welcome. It is an honor to be here with you
>and of course it is always a pleasure to be in Montego Bay. My predecessors
>took full advantage of Jamaica's tourism product during their tenures. I
>hope to as well. Unlike many of them, I come here not only as the U.S.
>Ambassador, but in some respects as one of you.
>For many years, my husband, former U.S. Ambassador Charles Cobb, and I have
>been investors, developers, and operators in the tourism sector. Among the
>properties our companies have owned or operated were the Boca Raton Hotel
>and Club, Sawgrass (including the TPA golf course), Longboat Key in
>Sarasota, and several other high-end golf or ski resort communities. Our
>major vehicle of the '70's and '80's, Arvida Corporation, was sold to the
>Walt Disney Company and my husband became a director of Disney, where he was
>charged with oversight of Disney's real estate and resort properties
>worldwide. We had the opportunity to participate in the planning and
>development of Disney's resorts in Tokyo and Paris. Another corporate
>vehicle, Cobb Partners (of which I can no longer - in this job - be an
>officer or director) owns the Durango Mountain Resort, including the
>Purgatory Ski Resort in Colorado, the Kirkwood Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe in
>California, and various other commercial and real properties in Colorado,
>California, and Florida - all states that are of course heavily influenced
>by tourism. During the years in which my husband was serving as U.S.
>Ambassador, and earlier when he was head of United States Travel and
>Tourism, I was the Chief Executive Officer of all Cobb Partners business
>operations, including the resort companies.
>This does not mean that I am an expert in your business, or even the
>components of your business, but I've certainly had a great deal of exposure
>to the complexities and demands of the business of tourism and resort
>Now -- For 41 years, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association has been
>leading the charge for Jamaica's private sector. I am very impressed by
>your important work promoting the development of the hospitality industry
>and tourism in Jamaica.
>We at the U.S. Embassy see the JHTA as a partner in our efforts to
>help bring economic development and sustained growth to Jamaica. A strong,
>stable, and prosperous Jamaica is a key United States objective that guides
>all of my work here.
>The US$ 1.3 billion per year Jamaican tourism industry, which accounts for
>one fifth of the country's GDP, is the undisputed locomotive of the economy.
>Jamaica is the fifth most popular tourist destination in the
>Caribbean region that enjoyed 5.5% annual growth throughout the 1990s. U.S.
>visitors dominate the Jamaican market. 70 percent of stopovers in Jamaica
>come from the United States. While Germans, Spaniards, and Frenchmen are
>increasingly choosing to visit Cuba or the Dominican Republic, many North
>American tourists continue to favor Jamaica. However, we all know there are
>some real challenges ahead.
>Crime, environmental degradation, and regulatory burdens are some of
>these challenges. Stiff competition from other destinations coupled with
>blasé attitudes about marketing and advertisement threaten to erode
>Of course, I know that there's been a lot of discussion lately about correct
>budget levels for advertising. The last thing I would want is to get in the
>middle of any spat between my good friends Butch Stewart, Fay Pickersgill,
>and Minister Simpson-Miller, so I won't be going there tonight! But it is
>obvious that getting the word out about Jamaica's uncommon natural beauty,
>delightful climate, and hidden treasures is extremely important to you and
>Marketing, however, is only part of the picture in my judgment. To be
>continuously successful, transportation system and related infrastructure
>must be world class. Regulatory and tariff regimes must encourage
>modernization and investment. Investment regimes must be transparent and
>fair. Civil aviation needs to be encouraged. The island's fragile
>eco-systems must be protected. And of course, Jamaica's nagging crime
>problems must be successfully addressed.
>I know the crime image troubles you. I have seen the PriceWaterouseCoopers
>study that showed crime and harassment are Jamaican hoteliers' number one
>concern. You have told me personally. I have witnessed, through JHTA's
>Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) membership and, through your
>individual efforts, attempts to address crime, its root causes, and
>My number one priority as Ambassador is the protection and safety of all
>Americans on the island and of the 800 thousand-plus U.S. tourists who visit
>Jamaica each year -- I am encouraged by your commitment to fight criminal
>elements. I applaud these efforts and I offer my offices to support your
>efforts along these lines.
>United States efforts to help Jamaica bolster its border security and law
>enforcement can lend a hand. We are working with the Port Authority to
>enhance monitoring and security not only at the cargo and container ports in
>Kingston and Montego Bay, but also at the island's cruise ship terminals.
>Increased airport and airline security measures will prevent air piracy,
>help stop the flow of drugs and weapons, and keep undesirables out of
>Jamaica. I must say that Jamaica-U.S. cooperation in this area has been
>Together, we have set as a priority goal the facilitation of travel between
>our countries. A system of immigration controls that disrupts illicit
>migration, but maintains the healthy flow of business travelers, tourists,
>and family visitors between our countries. This is the balance that we seek
>to reach. We look forward to working with you and the Government of Jamaica
>in this important area.
>I must tell you frankly, if I were in your shoes, one of the things I'd be
>worrying about is the comparatively high airfares between the United States
>and Jamaica. We are 70 percent of your market. Competition among more
>airlines, on more routes, would force the price of a ticket from North
>America to Montego Bay down dramatically. Liberalization of air traffic
>between Europe and the United States brought significantly lower fares. In
>fact, American tourists can fly to France or Germany for half the cost of
>flying to Jamaica - and they often do. During the off-season, a couple
>flying from Boston to Jamaica can pay over $400 per ticket round-trip.
>Transatlantic flights for just over $200 per person are quite common.
>Therefore, in my judgment, Jamaica should begin discussions of an Open Skies
>civil aviation agreement with the United States. Such and accord would
>afford Air Jamaica unfettered access to airports in all 50 states. Air
>Jamaica can compete. I take pride (and so should you) in noting that Air
>Jamaica was the first foreign airline allowed to fly into Miami
>International following the tragic events of September 11. With more Air
>Jamaica, American Airlines, and other carriers' planes arriving from more
>cities - with more people - than ever before, competition would naturally
>drives prices down; and, I believe, entice more Americans to make the very
>easy trip from the States to Jamaica.
>As you know, tourism generates foreign exchange and creates jobs, but as the
>delegates to the UN small island developing states meeting in Montego Bay
>last month pointed out, tourism can also strain a country's natural
>resources and its environment. That is why ecologically sound,
>environmentally sensitive tourism practices are vital to both increasing the
>island's appeal to visitors and to the sustainability of the sector. I'm
>sure you know that over 80 percent of the coral reefs in Negril and Montego
>Bay are damaged. Many of your beautiful beaches are eroding. Sport fishing
>has been dramatically reduced. Reports of water quality degradation in the
>rivers and on the coasts and deforestation in the Blue Mountains and in
>Cockpit country, are disturbing signs. This is an area where the private
>sector, the government, and your bilateral partners all need to help.
>Although my background is, in part, as a "developer," or perhaps because of
>that - I do consider myself an environmentalist, in what I would like to
>think is an even-keeled sense. Our companies always recognized the need to
>achieve a fine balance between growth and development that satisfies
>community needs and protection of non-replenishable natural resources,
>specifically because they competed with other naturally beautiful, safe, and
>health-friendly destination resorts - as yours do. Environmentalism is an
>asset in our business. Consumers also understand the importance of
>protecting natural resources. In fact, if you do not protect your natural
>assets, tourists will not come.
>Jamaican tourism has gone through enormous changes over the past 50 years.
>In the 1940s and 50s, movie stars and moguls made Jamaica their favorite
>playground. But as word of Jamaica's charms got out, the number of tourists
>increased. Cruise ships began making stops; package deals were introduced.
>The 1960's and '70's brought democratization of the product, which meant
>that the private villas gave way to major investments in big hotels and
>tourism infrastructure. In the late '70's, political violence rocked the
>island, and Jamaica tourism evolved again. Self-contained and secure
>"all-inclusive" resorts became the model. The 1990's then brought lower-end
>tourism -- European backpackers and American spring breakers on tight
>budgets made up a larger portion of Jamaica's tourists. Cruise ships became
>an even more integral part of the tourism picture. And in the last few
>years another evolutionary wave has taken hold - expensive and exclusive
>"non-inclusive" resorts and villa complexes that cater to a new generation
>of rich and famous. One example of this model is right next door -- the
>fabulous Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall, created by an American family who have had
>a long love affair with Jamaica. I don't know the exact numbers, but I
>would estimate that in just the last few years the Rollins family has
>brought US$ 150 million of investment to the Montego Bay area, resulting in
>a waterfall of residual and positive tangential effects. Chris Blackwell's
>Island Outpost properties are world-renowned. There are other interesting,
>non-inclusive options like Bluefields and, of course, Round Hill, which
>offer diverse and appealing escapes.
>Along with the variety of hotel offerings on the North Coast, Jamaican golf
>has improved dramatically and probably deserves additional collaborative
>efforts and strategic marketing to capitalize on the many good courses.
>There won't be many more built. (It costs about US$500,000 per hole, per
>golf course.) Golf deserves additional marketing. Golfers like variety and
>they don't particularly like to cross time zones to find it.
>The continuing evolution in tourism will not stop. A new generation of
>tourists is now looking for something a little different - and they do have
>some money to spend. Sand, sea and sun still appeal, but historic and
>cultural tourism are in. Eco-tourism (it is UN International Ecotourism
>Year) and adventure tours (it is the UN International Year of the Mountain)
>are gaining popularity. My family and most of our friends are practitioners
>of these new kinds of tourism, especially when combined with fascinating
>culture and unique history lessons. Jamaica has a tremendous amount to
>offer in this respect.
>But which tourists to really target is of critical importance. I hear a lot
>about the cruise ships. While the new mega-ships can bring three, four, or
>even five thousand tourists with each landfall, these tourists stay for just
>a few hours and you know they spend little. Those who stay overnight - and
>preferably for several nights - are obviously more desirable. Keep in mind
>rule of thumb that every dollar spent on an export (and tourism is clearly
>an export) creates seven to eight dollars by the economic multiplier effect
>in the local economy. The longer people stay, and the more things there are
>for them to do, the more value is added in the local community.
>Let's look at a couple in their thirties (a demographic that includes about
>half of all stopover tourists in Jamaica). They will likely stay for a week
>or more in one your resorts. They'll spend several thousand dollars on
>their vacation. They are likely to come back - perhaps four, five or six
>times in their lifetimes, spending thousands more. The cruise ship
>passenger - a retiree on his or her once or twice in a lifetime trip - and
>will typically, in their lifetime, spend less than one hundred dollars in
>Jamaica. Of course it is imperative that the cruise ship visitor have a
>positive experience on their one-day visit in Jamaica - or you run the risk
>of having 3,000 to 5,000 spokespersons making negative comments.
>So, it certainly seems to me that renewed emphasis should be placed on
>wooing wealthier, longer-term guests. I also believe that you and your
>government leaders should think long and hard about vacation and retirement
>homebuyers who will have a lifetime commitment to return, and who will
>likely spend upwards of a million dollars during their lifetime of trips to
>Jamaica. They will bring family and friends, who tend to bring additional
>people who spend additional money. They become infatuated with Jamaica and
>will be your proud spokespersons wherever in the world they come from. It
>is entirely possible to create strong and favorable "word of mouth"
>advertising through getting these foreigners to literally "buy into"
>Now I recognize this will not be easy. Recent discussions with U.S.
>investors, exporters, and service providers, as well as with local Jamaican
>businessmen (without revealing any names) have brought some real concerns to
>Let me share just a few of these with you, that have ramifications for the
>tourism industry. I understand that the government [of Jamaica] has begun
>applying certain import safeguards. Officials enforce certain duties that
>don't seem to us to make much sense. And there is a trend to restricting
>imports - using labeling and health standard arguments. These reduce your
>ability to compare international and domestic suppliers and to access the
>highest quality, lowest cost supplies. In short, they affect your ability
>to be competitive.
>Cookies, cakes, and breads are treated as dairy products and require special
>veterinary certificates. Imported wines of all kinds have a 100% duty. In
>my judgment, the wine duty is an example of a counterproductive and
>self-defeating approach to revenue generation and to the expansion of a
>vibrant, free-spending tourism environment.
>Let me explain what I mean. An acceptable bottle of wine purchased by a
>hotel may cost US$10. With a 100% duty, plus a nominal profit added - say,
>100% added on to cover the cost of doing business - that bottle must sell at
>your place of business for at least US$ 30 -- probably understandable and
>acceptable to most tourists. But if you want to attract the folks who
>actually like to spend their money on such luxury items, you have a distinct
>problem. A US$50 bottle of wine becomes a US$150 bottle in your restaurant
>- and that is not an exceptional bottle of wine by world standards. An
>US$80 bottle (a fine but not extraordinary wine) could cost between US$ 200
>and US$ 250! In which case most people would think they're being ripped
>off. Why not suggest a standard duty -- across the wine spectrum - of US$10
>per bottle charge? The government would receive no less - and probably more
>- in revenue. You will sell more; you would meet the standards of your
>international guests; and such little things will help you have satisfied
>guests and repeat customers.
>If you believe that longer-term visitors are desirable and that vacation and
>second home and retirement homeowners bring the most money into the economy,
>there's another area where private sector input might provide useful
>guidance to government officials. Developers, I have learned, are very put
>off by cumbersome and opaque real estate transfer policies and regulations.
>Despite JAMPRO's best efforts, investors have difficulty obtaining proper
>licenses and government approvals in a timely fashion. This has a hugely
>dampening effect on vacation and retirement home buyers. I think that the
>private sector needs to encourage local and national government agencies to
>strive for efficient, fast, and fair procedures to ensure much needed
>future investment from your highest value-added prospects. So these are
>some of my thoughts.
>While I know that your industry is enduring some post-traumatic stress
>symptoms and I know that the last few weeks certainly have not been good,
>Jamaican tourism is a relatively healthy industry. There are new and
>exciting developments in world tourism, and -- with all sectors working
>together -- new opportunities for Jamaican tourism.
>You are still just a short flight away from one of the world's largest,
>richest, and most mobile markets. And Americans love to visit here. You
>are experienced, creative, and resilient. My team and I look forward to
>working with the JHTA as the evolution continues and you chart a course for
>continued growth in this vital Jamaican sector.
>Public Affairs Associate
>Office of Public Affairs
>First Floor, Mutual Life Building South Tower
>2 Oxford Road
>Tel: (876) 935-6009 (direct); 935-6053/4 extension 3009; Fax: (876) 929-3637
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