(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Group Chief Executive Officer of GraceKennedy Limited Senator Don Wehby is appealing to the Jamaica Government to provide housing solutions for tourism workers.
“Minister (of Tourism), I know you are going to take it seriously, but I think that we need to have a housing solution plan. I would treat this, based on that survey, as the greatest priority any government can do in terms of providing housing solution for our employees in the hotel industry. Whether we sit down and we talk to NHT (National Housing Trust) or private developers, again I state this should be one of the number one priorities, not for you, Minister, [but] for the Government of Jamaica to address this problem,” Senator Wehby expressed.
“I know my Jamaican people. Two things that they wish for, no matter what status they are in life: they want their children to have a good education and they want to own their own home.”
Senator Wehby referred to a presentation in Parliament by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett “where the minister was actually speaking about housing for employees in the tourism industry and that a survey was done and report prepared”.
He noted that while he did not personally see the report, he has been informed that 85 per cent of 847 responses of tourism employees indicated that they were not homeowners.
“A survey was done of the employees in the hotel industry — 847 responses and 85 per cent of the people surveyed say they did not own their own home,” he noted.
“Colleagues if you have a valuable asset — our people, we must protect and enrich our people — and I strongly support policies, Minister, that are addressing the welfare of the industry employees.”
Senator Wehby, who was delivering the keynote address at the Tourism Excellence Awards 2017 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre Saturday night, gave an assurance for his support for the Tourism Pension Act when it reaches the Senate.
“I was very heartened to hear that the Pension Act is almost there. It has been long in coming. But what I will say to you, wearing my hat as senator, I am willing and waiting to sign it when it reaches the Upper House,” Wehby said.
Meanwhile, Mikailla Robinson of Jamaica Pegasus emerged as the 2017 National Champion Individual, while the 2017 Champion Organisation went to Hyatt Ziva Hyatt Zilara Resort.
Meanwhile Bartlett, who saluted the 21 semi-finalists, used the opportunity to celebrate the increase of 11,000 workers in the tourism sector last year.
“There is an increase of 11,000 additional workers in the tourism sector from 106,000 to 117,000. And we are proud that that amount of workers represent the workers directly involved — those who are in the accommodation subsector and those who are in the attractions and the ground transportation,” Bartlett said.
“We have not included those who are in what we call the induced sector or the indirect sector, because when we add them all together tourism represents close to 300,000 Jamaican workers who are benefiting from this great industry. That represents one in five of all the workers in the country today.
Chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund Godfrey Dyer and Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, who both brought greetings, also congratulated all the nominees.