MINISTER OF TOURISM EDMUND BARTLETT (RIGHT) MEETS WITH EDI WRAY, FIRST MAN AND HEAD OF THE RASTAFARI INDIGENOUS VILLAGE AT IRWIN IN MONTEGO BAY, AFTER ADDRESSING CANEX JAMAICA, THE ISLAND’S FIRST CANNABIS-CENTRED CONFERENCE ON THE BUSINESS POTENTIAL OF THE MARIJUANA TRADE. LISTENING ATTENTIVELY IS MITZIE WILLIAMS.
Jamaica is trying to cash in on the multi-billion-dollar health and wellness tourism sector that several Caribbean countries are turning to in order to boost visitor numbers, but it won’t be traditional medicine it plans to use to reach a high in tourist arrivals.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said Jamaica’s lush and rustic southwestern coast is ideally suited for the concept of “cannabis-infused tourism” where products made from the herb would play a major part in the tourism sector.
Health and wellness tourism has been identified as one of the key areas of focus under the ministry’s plan to grow visitor arrivals to five million annually, generating earnings of US$5 billion by 2021.
Speaking at Canex Jamaica, the first cannabis-centred conference on the business potential of the marijuana trade, Minister Bartlett said he recognized “how the cannabis product and its application could fit neatly in a network of health and wellness that could drive a new demographic into Jamaica with a higher spend and which will be able to establish us as a destination with a difference.”
The Tourism Minister said Jamaica should not be a destination with only all-inclusive properties and mass tourism: “We believe that we can do product differentiation and we can do a level of product diversification which enables us to be attractive to all demographics.”
An element of that, Bartlett added, was “rustic luxury” which combined nature with the benefit of a luxurious lifestyle, while enabling the utilization of “the nutraceutical values of the rich biodiversity of your neighbourhood.”
He said the global market for that kind of tourism stands at around US$494 billion and Jamaica wants a piece of it.
“What we’ve found also is that cannabis-infused experiences have added much to health and wellness across the United States,” the Minister added, citing the US state of Colorado where bookings increased by over 175 per cent when it entered that market, and Amsterdam which has also benefitted tremendously.
He said the Health and Wellness Network that he has established in the Tourism Ministry had been tasked with defining the policy that will provide the framework within which the cannabis-infused health and wellness experience will become a reality in Jamaica.
“And we’re going to have a full roll-out of that by the end of 2017,” Bartlett disclosed.
In an invitation to marijuana growers and prospective investors at the conference, the minister urged them to examine “how you can work with me to drive this new experience and to invest in the prosperity agenda that the country has.”