Recognized for his wide-ranging expertise and accomplishments in the political arena, Honourable Edmund Bartlett has given over thirty-five years of service to Jamaica, working both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
Mr. Bartlett was first appointed Minister of Tourism in 2007, serving until December 2011. Prior to this appointment, he already had a solid track record of service as an outstanding legislator in central government in both Chambers of Parliament. He served as Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and Culture in the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister of Youth, Sports & Community Development from 1980 to 1989; later he served as Senator and Opposition Spokesman on various portfolios, including Tourism, from 1989 to 2007. While serving in the shadow Cabinet following his first stint as Tourism Minister, Mr. Bartlett traveled the world forging alliances with strategic partners for global initiatives. He returned to the helm of the Ministry of Tourism following the February 2016 victory at the polls by the Jamaica Labour Party.
Beyond the duties of his assigned portfolio, Minister Bartlett has continually championed the advancement of education, skills training and job creation as ways of improving the lives of his constituents in East Central St. James. He is passionate about education and so his efforts have been about creating scholarships for both students and teachers, thus raising the bar for educational achievements. He has also worked tirelessly to improve the welfare of the elderly and disabled in his constituency.
Mr. Bartlett is viewed by some as the world’s leading Tourism Minister. He has represented Jamaica regionally and internationally, and currently chairs the Board of Affiliate Members of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). He is the first to serve on the executive of both the public and private sector arms of this prestigious organization making him well qualified to create effective policy given his comprehensive experience. During his first tenure as tourism minister he became Vice Chairman of the Executive Council of the UNWTO, representing the Americas, Vice President for the 19th General Assembly of the UNWTO held in South Korea in 2011, Vice President of the 2009 UNWTO Conference held in Kazakhstan and Chairman of CARICOM’s Sub-Committee COTED in 2009 in the areas of Tourism and Transportation/Civil Aviation. During his terms as the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Bartlett has also served on the Council of Ministers for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), and in the capacity of Vice Chairman of CTO from 2008 to 2009. This wealth of experience has made Mr. Bartlett a much sought after speaker in various fora.
Mr. Bartlett has, in both the public and private sectors, made significant contributions to tourism globally, promoting further collaboration with key players in tourism in driving the expansion of public private partnerships (PPPS), essential components of the sustainable development of the industry. These partnerships span the various sectors that make up tourism such as transportation, agriculture, manufacturing among others. Some of these partnerships have taken the form of foreign direct investment, particularly in the area of accommodations.
Tourism has been positioned by Mr. Bartlett as a catalyst for economic growth and the transformation of communities, emphasizing the role that each individual plays in developing the tourism product. Having established five networks (Gastronomy, Shopping, Health and Wellness, Sports and Entertainment, and Knowledge) he is working to create policies within which the relevant players will operate. Acknowledging that tourism is a series of moving parts, he initiated the Tourism Linkages Network within the Ministry which seeks to develop and strengthen sustainable linkages between the tourism sector and other productive sectors of the economy — such as agriculture, manufacturing and the creative industries including entertainment.
Mr. Bartlett remains committed to enhancing the welfare of workers within Jamaica’s tourism sector. To this end he initiated efforts to establish a pension programme for tourism workers, which will allow these dedicated employees to retire in dignity after years of devotion to the industry. Mr. Bartlett has vowed that this scheme will come on-stream in 2017.
Recognizing the need to boost investment, Mr. Bartlett also spearheaded the development of a formal framework to provide operators of Small and Micro Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) with the well needed banking support through the EXIM Bank of Jamaica. Under this agreement, operators of SMTEs are now able to access up to J$25 million dollars at 5 percent interest, over 5 years.
Mr. Bartlett has also developed Jamaica’s Shovel-Ready initiative, which seeks to directly assist investors by: obtaining tacit development approvals, conducting carrying capacity studies, assessing appropriate land utilization and installing preliminary infrastructure. By doing this, the process of investing in Jamaica’s tourism industry has been streamlined and expedited. This concept has been very successful and has led to growth of over 20% in Jamaica’s room-stock this year. In fact, Jamaica is anticipating some 3,400 additional rooms to be added to our current room inventory, before the end of the 2016/2017 Winter Tourist Season.
Mr. Bartlett places great emphasis on forming partnerships aimed at empowering his fellow countrymen to help foster tourism’s growth from the community level. This is aimed at building a sustainable industry that has a positive impact on the lives of every Jamaican. It is against this background that he has had preliminary discussions with US-based companies Airbnb and Uber Technologies Inc. to develop the shared economy locally, through partnerships with such entities.
The region has also benefited from Mr. Bartlett’s innovative thinking as he views other Caribbean and Latin American tourist destinations, not as Jamaica’s competitors, but as partners that can use their combined tourism offerings to attract more visitors, particularly from long-haul destinations, to experience multi-destination tourism. He has taken bold steps to have this facilitated under a special Memoranda of Understanding between nations in the region.
Mr. Bartlett has copped numerous awards throughout the years. Most recently at the 2016 staging of the World Tourism Awards he was the recipient of the 2016 Caribbean Tourism Minister of Distinction award. He was also the awarded Caribbean's Leading Personality for Outstanding Services to Tourism at the 23rd World Travel Awards in 2016. In 2012, for outstanding and important services to Jamaica, Mr. Bartlett was also conferred the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD) and, in 2010, was conferred the Spanish honour of Commander of Number of the Order of Civil Merit of Spain on the order of the King of Spain. Additionally, for his efforts in respect of tourism development, he was named Man of the Year in 2009.
A graduate of the University of the West Indies, where he majored in accounting, he has worked at the senior management level in the areas of marketing and sales as well as accounting, for major multi-national companies operating in Jamaica, prior to entering elective politics.
Minister Bartlett has been married for 36 years and has two children. His passions include cricket, dominoes and dancing. At work and at play, he lives the words of Marcus Garvey, Jamaica’s first National Hero: