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Value of global tourism conference questioned even as organisers claim success

Jamaica Gleaner / Global and local tourism stakeholders ended their three-day conference in Montego Bay claiming success, but already questions are swirling about its value to Jamaica and the true cost to taxpayers.

Opposition spokesman on Tourism, Dr Wykeham McNiell, is questioning the cost and the number of delegates who attended one of global tourism’s largest and most important events, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism.

In a release to the media, McNiell claims that far fewer than the projected 1,000 overseas delegates attended the conference that concluded Wednesday at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

According to the former tourism minister, just a mere 252 overseas delegates attended the global event that reportedly cost the government $125 million to stage.

The conference was staged by the Jamaican government, in partnership with the UNWTO, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank Group.

However, speaking at a press conference yesterday, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said over 1,400 delegates attended the conference, describing it as the largest and most successful tourism event to take place in the Caribbean.

Bartlett said the delegates came from 60 countries and all issues were deliberated on and expertly discussed.

Also speaking at the press conference, UNWTO Secretary General, Dr Taleb Rifai, expressed his satisfaction with the event, likening it to a “second (UN) General Assembly”.

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