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Jamaica Tourist Board signs Memorandum of Understanding with Airbnb

Jamaica Tourist Board signs Memorandum of Understanding with Airbnb

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a framework for cooperation to further boost and diversify Jamaica’s tourism product, was signed on December 13, 2016 by the Jamaica Tourist Board and home-sharing accommodation company Airbnb.


Ahead of the signing, at the Jamaica Tourist Board’s New Kingston offices, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett expressed his excitement about the positive impact he expects the partnership to have on the travel experience of visitors and Jamaica’s tourism product overall.

“This partnership will help expose our visitors to our rich culture and showcase the warm Jamaican hospitality for which we are known the world over. I also believe great things will come from this, as we cooperate in areas of common interest, including marketing Jamaica as a tourist destination; promoting sporting events as well as our festivals and other cultural events; and fostering responsible home sharing,” said Minister Bartlett.

The Airbnb digital platform is currently used by approximately 140 million people in more than 34,000 cities and 191 countries.  Its growing popularity has caused some concern locally from tourism interests, as it currently surpasses some major hotel chains in terms of number of beds offered and market valuation.

However, Minister Bartlett outlined that Airbnb and other digitally-operated travel platforms, should not be feared by tourism interests locally. In fact, according to statistics provided by Airbnb, the company was responsible for bringing 32,000 tourists to the country in the past year.

“The popularity of Airbnb is not necessarily a bad thing for our hospitality industry. I think we should face the fact that these technology-driven firms are here to stay. They could not be growing rapidly in size and scale to rival some of the world’s largest transportation and hospitality businesses unless there was a demand for the type of services they provide. So, they should be embraced and not feared,” said Minister Bartlett.

“This agreement has been long in coming and will play a key role in our efforts to diversify our tourism product to cater to the passions of a growing demographic. I am confident that our partnership with Airbnb will be a fruitful one which will help to boost arrivals and enable more Jamaicans to participate in the tourism sector,” said Chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board, John Lynch.

“We are excited to announce this partnership with the Jamaica Tourist Board. Jamaica is a world class tourist destination that offers visitors a unique experience against a beautiful backdrop. Whether you come to Jamaica for the beaches, the country’s fascinating history and culture, amazing food or warm people, Jamaica has something to offer everyone. We look forward to continuing our work with everyone involved in promoting Jamaica as a top travel destination,” said Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb’s Public Policy lead for Central America and the Caribbean.  “Airbnb travelers seek unique and authentic travel experiences and Jamaica offers just that,” he noted.

Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding, there will be regulatory measures in place that will benefit and safeguard Jamaican Airbnb hosts and by extension, the country. It will also take into account destination assurance, by establishing hosting standards and best practices for homestay facilities.

Airbnb is a community marketplace established in 2008. It allows people to list, discover, and book unique short-term accommodations around the world online or from a mobile phone or tablet.

Talking Points for Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett at the Signing Of the Memorandum of Understanding with Airbnb:

Salutations…

 Mrs. Jennifer Griffith – Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism

 Mr. Shawn Sullivan – Public Policy Director for Central America and the Caribbean, Airbnb Inc.

 Mr. Carlos Muñoz – Head of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Airbnb Inc.

 Mr. John Lynch – Chairman, Jamaica Tourist Board

 Mr. Paul Pennicook – Director of Tourism

 Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen…

Good Afternoon…

• Forging strong alliances with strategic partners is absolutely critical to driving growth within the tourism industry and is in-keeping with one of our five pillars of tourism growth – New Partnerships.

• Therefore it gives me great pleasure to be here this afternoon to witness the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Jamaica Tourist Board and Airbnb.

• Today’s MOU establishes a framework for cooperation to further boost and diversify Jamaica’s tourism product as we seek to attract five million arrivals in five years and earnings of US$5 billion.

• I believe great things will come from this partnership as we cooperate in areas of common interest, including marketing Jamaica as a tourist destination; promoting sporting events as well as our festivals and other cultural events; and fostering responsible home sharing.

• We see this partnership as an opportunity to create positive travel experiences for visitors to our island, expose them to our rich culture and showcase the warm Jamaican hospitality for which we are known the world over.

• Airbnb has become a competitor and a disruptor for the traditional hospitality industry but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The “disrupters” in the shared economy – Airbnb, Uber and Lyft– should be embraced and not feared.

• I think we should face the fact that these technology-driven firms are here to stay. They could not be growing rapidly in size and scale to rival some of the world’s largest transportation and hospitality businesses unless there was a demand for the type of services they provide.

• After all, Airbnb is now surpassing some major hotel chains in number of beds offered and in market valuation. We are talking about 100,000,000 people who have used the Airbnb platform to visit more than 34,000 cities in 191 countries around the world.  These are unbelievable numbers.

• In Jamaica, the home sharing accommodation service has some 2,300 active hosts and 4,000 active listings scattered across the island and the market is growing. In fact, Airbnb reports that their home sharing service has brought some 32,000 tourists to our island in the past year.

• It is obvious that Airbnb has many pluses that benefit the traveller, host and country:

o It adds diversity to our accommodation offerings, providing economical easy-to-find lodging that attracts individuals who might not normally be able to afford to travel.

o It creates income opportunities for people who need them, allowing ordinary Jamaicans to earn from tourism when they rent their homes/rooms to visitors.

o Travelers chose Airbnb to experience destinations not as tourists but as locals. This is a boon for community tourism. Visitors get to completely immerse themselves in the local culture and experience the ‘real’ Jamaica as they interact with local citizens, discover local attractions and sample local cuisine.

o At the same time, the benefits flow back to communities from the sale of craft and the provision of accommodation, entertainment, transportation services and tour guide services.

• Benefits notwithstanding, there is no doubt that Airbnb’s rapid growth has made them a serious competitor for players in the hospitality industry with important consequences for tourism and for tourist destinations.

• So how do we move forward in a way that ensures a win win for Jamaica, Airbnb hosts and the tourism sector? How do we ensure home sharing grows responsibly and sustainably?

• We do not intend to curb the growth of Airbnb but to ensure our tourism product is not negatively impacted or degraded by unregulated units.  It is important that Jamaicans offer quality rooms and hosting services to visitors in order to uphold Jamaica’s reputation as a world class tourist destination.

• The MOU takes into account our goal of destination assurance, which is crucial to the development of our tourism product. It ensures our credibility in the marketplace.

• Destination assurance creates guest satisfaction and initiates positive word of mouth advertising through our unpaid brand ambassadors who return time after time and also share their experiences with friends, who in turn are encouraged to visit.

• The satisfaction and safety of our visitors should be paramount. Bad destination experiences do not affect the host only; it tarnishes the entire tourism product and the enviable brand that has taken years to build. Establishing hosting standards and best practices for homestay facilities will help to address this problem.

• At the same time, I recognize the right of every Jamaican to benefit from tourism’s success.  The signing of this MOU will not take “bread out of the small man’s mouth” but will put in place regulatory measures that will benefit and safeguard the average Jamaican – the Airbnb host, as well as Jamaica.

• We are very happy to be partnering with Airbnb. Today’s MOU signing demonstrates the positive results that can be achieved when the public and private sectors work together to achieve our shared goals.

• In the weeks to come, we will be establishing a working group to move forward on the areas of cooperation that I mentioned earlier as we work together to grow Jamaica’s tourism in a safe, secure and sustainable manner.

Thank you.

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