Sunday, 30 January 2011

Minister ED BARTLETT talks Calabash cancellation, 15 years of Jazz & Blues and the inescapable tourism factor

POINT OF VIEW: Tourism Minister ED Bartlett holds the attention of a trio of FLOW reps at the 2011 Jamaica Jazz & Blues Fest in Trelwany.

As government minister with responsibility for the tourism sector, Edmund Bartlett always has a full plate, including this past weekend, which saw the 2011 staging of the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival that pulled thousands of visitors to the island. TALLAWAH scored an opportunity at the festival to speak with the minister about his tough job, the fate of the Calabash Literary Festival, and taking time to indulge in a little jazz.

After an impressive 15 years, what role has the Jazz & Blues Festival played in pitching Jamaica as an ideal tourist destination?
To begin with, the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival is a major calendar event, and it is what we call one of the hooks for tourism. Events are among the great pulls for arrivals, and the more of them we can have, the more likely we’ll have larger numbers coming to the island. This weekend, for example, all the hotels are full from Lucea back to Ocho Rios. The local people, the small entities, all experience good occupancy and good business because the event is taking place. Over time, we do an exit poll to find out how many people visit, what do they spend, how much do they spend, what are the items that they buy, where are they coming from. So that gives us a good idea of the impact of the festival on the arrivals and the economic activity within the communities around. And last year, some US$3 million was generated on the weekend from the activities. So events like these are not to be seen as just social activities; they bring employment to people and benefits in real terms to the country.

What are you thoughts on the Greenfield Stadium being used to host the festival for the second time?
It seems a natural choice, and there is something special about it with the ambience of the ocean around you and the waves beating against the shoreline. All of these things create a different sort of setting, and I believe this is a venue that can survive for a long time.

Recently, it was announced that the Calabash Literary Festival is traditionally over for a range of reasons. What are your thoughts on this development?
Well, it’s unfortunate but they spoke with me and indicated that they want to make next year a really outstanding festival. And they tell me that ‘Look, Minister, it’s not what you haven’t done or what we expect you to do; it’s our decision that we want to create a very effective festival next year. We are better off pooling our resources and forwarding it into next year’s event.’

This being a jazz and blues festival, I have to ask ‘Are you a music man?’
Oh yes, I love all forms of music. I like rhythm and blues definitely, but jazz is for the occasion, and when I travel and want to relax, in particular, you can go into a piano bar and catch a few minutes of jazz. So most times when I travel I love to listen to jazz. It seems you have quite a fulfilling role as minister. It’s exciting but it’s very demanding, and it takes all of your spare time and your real time and leaves you with no downtime (Laughs).

TV CREW: Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett hangs with representatives from HBO and cable provider FLOW at the Jazz & Blues Fest.

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