Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Morrison chairs JTB
Appointment of new board one of first tasks for Morrison
Observer Reporter
Tuesday, November 05, 2002



MORRISON... priority is to pull together the stakeholders to put our tourism product on a sound footing to compete effectively

CABINET yesterday approved the immediate appointment of Airports Authority executive head, Dennis Morrison, as chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) in a move apparently designed to streamline the operations of the state agencies that oversee the country's travel industry.

Morrison, who is also an economist, has played a vital role in the development of the Tourism Master Plan and is also part of a team that is facilitating the process for adjustments to immigration and customs procedures, a statement from the Ministry of Industry and Tourism said yesterday.

"The priority is to pull together the stakeholders in the industry so as to put our tourism product on a sound footing to compete effectively in the marketplace so that we can get strong growth on a competitive basis and achieve the linkages with all sectors of the economy," Morrison told the Observer last night.

Morrison replaces Bill Clarke, who chaired the JTB for under a year and had a few scrapes with the sector last summer when he suggested that fierce debate over the management of the JTB was "negative drivel".

The comment led to calls from the sector for his resignation as hoteliers branded his language as "demeaning and insulting to the industry and its membership". They also said that the comments had destroyed the basis for any future harmonious relationship.

The quarrel stemmed from claims by several top leaders in the industry that the JTB spends too much of its US$32 million a year on administration rather than hard-core advertising and their calls for a fundamental reform of the agency.

On June 17, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) president, Josef Forstmayr sent Clarke an e-mail impressing on him the need for urgency in the reforms and warning of the build-up of pressure in the industry.

But Clarke responded that he had kept out of the public debate because he had "more productive things to do with my time".

Clarke also said that it had become "quite fashionable" to attack the JTB and suggested that Forstmayr would do better by obtaining "from your members, tangible proposals" for tackling the problems facing the industry.

The row snowballed but eventually stalled after Forstmayr, in June, removed himself from the JTB board and recommended five new members -- Chris Zacca, John Lynch, Zein Nakash, Frank Rance and Paul Pennicook -- who, up to the dissolution of the last Parliament in October, were not officially named to the board.

In fact, the JHTA decided not to send any of its representatives to a directors' meeting planned for August 26 on the basis that the association had not had a reply to its recommendations from then tourism minister, Portia Simpson Miller.

But Simpson Miller's position was that there were only five seats on the board for the JHTA, and given that Vana Taylor, who heads the Jamaica Association of Villas and Apartments, had refused to step down, the association needed to resolve that problem.

The appointment of a new board will be one of the first tasks for Morrison, who, with the assistance of Roy Miller, deputy director in charge of research, will oversee the day-to-day activities of the JTB until a new director of tourism is appointed.

The current director, Fay Pickersgill, is on leave and will demit office on January 31, 2003.

Yesterday, Morrison, after meeting with new Industry and Tourism Minister Aloun N'Dombet Assamba, her junior minister Wykeham McNeill, and Loraine Robinson, the ministry's permanent secretary, said the focus would be to create a multi-faceted product that pulls from all the positive attributes of the country.

"We want to create a harmony between the community of Jamaica and the industry so that the people see the industry as operating to their benefit and on behalf of everyone," Morrison said.

He reiterated that the industry was hard-hit by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, to the extent where tourist movement in the Caribbean had recorded declines in the double digit, against single digit for the rest of the world.

"When you combine that with the downturn in the US economy, the challenge is more substantial and, therefore, demands greater effort," Morrison said.