Head of the ministry’s Sports and Entertainment Network Kamal Bankay, believes the Top Events platform can help increase the number of visitors participating in local events from 100,000 to one million. 

The Ministry of Tourism, through its Tourism Linkages Network (TLN) has launched the Top Events Jamaica initiative – designed to increase visitor participation in events and activities islandwide. Top Events will use strategic partnerships to leverage the power of technology, social mediaand advertising. Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, in highlighting the significance of the platform said, “We recognise that entertainment forms a large part of why people travel and as such there is value in building out more products of this nature to drive arrivals and growth in the sector. This is why we established the Sports and Entertainment Network under the Linkages Network to help diversify our tourism product.” Top events will be a critical element that brings together authentic Jamaican entertainment products under one roof through the use of technology,” Bartlett told guests gathered at Devon House for the Top Events launch last week. [image_gallery] Click the slider for highlights of the launch captured by Llewellyn Wynter. Head of the ministry’s Sports and Entertainment Network Kamal Bankay, believes the platform canhelp increase the number of visitors participating in local events from 100,000 to one million. Of the historic 4.32 million visitors that arrived on the island last year, only 100,000 attended the over 15,000 local events last year, according to Bankay. “Our goal is to move this 100,000 attendees by tourists to one million. It’s an ambitious number but think about the growth and development of all sectors listed here today would have, if we move from 2.5 per cent, up to 25 per cent,” Bankay said. The Top Events initiative will include a microsite and an easy-to-use mobile app to increase visitor awareness and participation in the over 900 events held in Jamaica each month. To qualify for listing on Top Events, event organisers must meet the predetermined criteria outlined by the TLN that guarantees continuity in the content delivery and effective data capture. Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett; Culture Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange; State Minister in the Ministry of Industry Floyd Green and Director of Tourism, Donovan White, enjoy a game of domino at the Top Events launch. The TLN will be utilising key partnerships with relevant stakeholders throughout the industry to help drive the initiative. These partners include event promoters, hoteliers, airports, local attractions, transportation providers, restaurants, Airbnb, as well as tour operators. In addition to hosting Jamaica’s Top Events, the platform will provide visitors with real-time hotspots and locations or sites where ticket purchases and transportation arrangements may be made. "We would essentially be redeveloping our industries, flooding them with the supply of persons and they would experience significant growth in their sectors. The trickle down and economic impact of this would be undeniable," Bankay said. Local organisers will be able to list their events on the Top Events directory, free of cost. “Once you are a part of this programme you will be able to get a platform to list your activities and marketing support from the Government of Jamaica's agencies behind this platform,” Bankay said. "This is not only for annual events, as we also have a section for top weekly events. So top weekly events that happen at bars, restaurant and night clubs, will also be featured as well," he added. With Jamaica earning US$3.3 billion from the tourism industry last year, Tourism Minister Bartlett is also seeking to have tourists participate in the historical and cultural heritage of the island through music, dance and drama, sports, food and the warmth of the people. “There is the reality that while every township and communities across the country always come alive with exciting events, they do not attract our visitors because they do now know of them. In real terms, our visitors are not getting all they can out of their visit and our Jamaican people are not reaping the full benefits of potential tourists spending,” Bartlett said. "Think of the impact of getting just US$100 more from each of the 4.32 million tourists who are not now patronizing our events. That's approximatelyJ$504 million. I need not tell you the impact that amount of money could have circulating among our people.” Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, described the partnership between the two ministries as "dynamic". “We take another significant step in the brandishing of brand Jamaica. It is about recognising the creativity of our Jamaican people and putting in place mechanisms to use their creations to diversity and expand the offerings to tourists who decide to make it to Jamaica. It is about acknowledging that we are a people of entertainment and letting the world know. "Top Events must not just list the obvious like Reggae Sumfest, Rebel Salute and Dream Weekend, but should broaden its horizon to include say the Accompong Maroon Festival in St Elizabeth for those who are interested in culture and heritage tourism,” Grange said. The culture minister also expressed hopes of seeing visitors flock to the National Gallery to view the exhibition of Jamaican intuitive featuring Mallica Capo Reynolds for lovers of fine art or to Or Ray Town on a Sunday night for those who want a very rootsy engagement with grassroots Jamaica.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recommended that the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) continueto reduce its footprint in the foreign exchange market. The central bank is also being encouraged to limit foreign exchange sales to disorderly market conditions and assess the need for further reductions in its reserve requirements. “The BOJ’s recent reduction in the reserve requirement on Jamaican dollar deposits will help make policy accommodative but further rate cuts are likely to be needed,” the IMF said in its fifth review of Jamaica’s performance under its Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The bank has recently come under fire for the sharp decline in the value of the Jamaican dollar, with recent calls by the President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Howard Mitchell, for the Jamaican dollar to be pegged against its United States counterpart. Last week, the bank sold US$40 million to authorised dealers and large cambio operators by means of its Foreign Exchange Intervention and Trading Tool (B‐FXITT). According to the BOJ, “This foreign exchange market intervention aims to address temporary demand and supply imbalances, as happens in a free market environment.” But in its latest review, a summary of which was published yesterday, the IMF recommended that the BOJ carefully assess all incoming data in deciding further policy loosening. “Further monetary easing is needed to restore inflation to the midpoint of the 4–6 per cent target range,” the IMF said in a press release. Commenting on Jamaica’s recent performance under the standby arrangement, the IMF said strong implementation of the reform program continues. Consequently, Jamaica’s public debt is projected to fall below 100 per cent of GDP for the first time since FY2000/01— to 98.7 per cent of GDP in FY18/19. Unemployment is near all-time lows, business confidence is high, and the economy is estimated to have expanded by 1.8 per cent in 2018, buoyed by mining, construction and agriculture. International reserves are estimated to be comfortable under a more flexible exchange rate, the IMF added. All quantitative performance criteria at end-December 2018 were met, and the structural benchmark to table in Parliament amendments to BOJ Act was completed in October 2018. The IMF said strengthening coordination between the BOJ and FSC and increasing capacity in both institutions is paramount to maintain financial sector stability. “Risk-based supervision of financial conglomerates requires the methodical collection, sharing, and monitoring of data and lending standards. Joint work among the regulators will be required to draft legislation for the special resolution regime and to address AML/CFT deficiencies,” the IMF added. It said an ongoing commitment to strengthen domestic institutions is needed as Jamaica prepares to exit from the fund financial arrangement later this year. The Jamaican authorities continue to view the SBA as precautionary and to use it as an insurance policy against unforeseen external economic shocks that could lead to a balance of payments need.

Skip Marley (PHOTO: File)

Skip Marley, the Island Records reggae-hybrid prodigy for a new generation, on Friday released his latest single,'That’s Not True', featuring his uncle, Damian “JrGong” Marley. “That’s Not True,”is Skip’s first original music release since 2017 and arrivedtimely, the day before 4/20, when he performed at the Kaya Fest concert in Miami. The new release kicks off a promising new year of amazing music for Skip, with additional releases to come. You can listen to the song here. Skip is the grandson of reggae icon Bob Marley, and his songs pay homage to his deep family legacy. “I want to spread my music to the people and help them unify,” he says. “I want people to take away a message of love, of looking at the way you are living and thinking where we can work to be or better and feel better. Whatever they’re feeling, I want them to be able to turn up my music and think, relax, and get good vibes.”

Beenie Man

Hundreds of Canadian party goers are expected tojoin thousands of Jamaicans for Beachorama, which will take place on Saturday, April 27 at the Bournemouth Beach Park, downtown Kingston. Organisers said in a press release that this staging of Beachorama will raise the temperature for their international guests who have been through a grueling winter season by providing the best music, beach vibes and premium beverages. Grammy Winning artisteBeenie Man has been confirmed as the headline act for theevent that will feature the best in dancehall, hip hop and soca music provided by some of Jamaica’s hottest DJ’s, namely Coppershot, Team Shella, Hattaklapsand Rolexx. This beach-themed, cooler edition staging is the first in a series of partnerships between local promoters All Starz Entertainment and Niyah of MYC Entertainment out of Canada. “We are always looking for ways to expand our reach and share the Beachorama experience with new patrons so we had a discussion with Niyah about bringing visitors to experience an authentic Jamaican party vibe and the response was amazing. We are very excited for this event and we are going all out to ensure that everybody is happy and that we give our patrons an event to remember for years to come,” said Wren4life of All Starz Entertainment. There are plans to take the Beachorama experience to Canada later this year. Beachorama, currently in its seventh year of existence, boasts maximum capacity crowds. Tickets for this staging start at J$2,000and presold tickets can be found online at firstinlineja.com and other outlets. Gates are open at 5pm.

Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse.

It is coming up tothree years since Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse earned three Olympic medals - 200m silver, 100m, and 4x100m relay bronze - indicating he could be a dominant force for years to come. Those sublime Rio performances, however, were followed by massive disappointment due to a lingering hamstring problem and a severe bout of mononucleosis. In the interim, a handful of young rivals have emerged - Americans Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles and Ronnie Baker, Britons Zharnel Hughes, and Miguel Francis, plus South African Clarence Munyai. More are expected to emerge this year. And that’s not counting Trayvon Bromell, who shared the 2015 World Championships 100m bronze with De Grasse. Achilles problems which surfaced during the Rio Olympics and which required surgery in 2018 are behind him. All this might suggest that De Grasse is an underdog as he makes his comeback. “I have actually never heard that. That’s the first time someone has told me I am an underdog,” the 24-year-old says, laughing at the suggestion. “Everyone, I guess Christian and Noah, they had a great season last year so I think they will have a bit of pressure on them from their country. I think it is going to be fun, it's going to be competitive. Every day I get messages that everybody is just waiting for my return and waiting for me to get back on my feet.” As his season debut 200m race in Grenada on April 13 demonstrated, he is back. Although he was beaten by Francis, he ran a solid 20.20, his fastest ever season opener. The world championships are not until October so he has plenty of time to refine his form. At home in Canada, he has been the poster child for athletics with media gushing over his performances and designating him the ‘heir apparent’ to Usain Bolt. His hometown named a street after him. Sponsors queued up. But after back-to-back low key seasons, he decided a change was in order. In October last year, he switched coaches, deciding to relocate to Jacksonville, Florida, where he is now working with Rana Reider in a training group that includes Briton Adam Gemeli and Jamaican Tyquendo Tracey, both sub-10 second 100m runners. "I was just trying to get a new training environment,” said De Grasse, who eight months also became a father to a daughter with partner Nia Ali, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist. “It didn’t work out as much (with McMillan). We had a great run; the first couple of years were great. 2016 and even the first half of 2017 were good, until the injury. “Every coach is different,” he continued. “I am not trying to bash Stu or say anything negative about what I do with Rana that I didn’t do with Stu. But everyone has their own philosophy and I just buy in and stick with what the coach wants me to do and go from there. Rana has done a great job with all different types of athletes.” Though his personal 100m best is 9.91, he has targeted the Canadian record of 9.84 held jointly by 1996 Olympic champion Donovan Bailey and two-time world indoor 60m champion Bruny Surin. “If you are winning races you are going to get personal bests from that. I want to improve in the 100m and break the Canadian record,” he declares. “It has been on my radar for the last year. Definitely, I believe I can do that. I guess I want to make it tougher for the next generation and keep bringing down my 200m record. Those are some great goals for me but of course the most important one is winning. If I can win the times will come.” De Grasse knows his present times indicate his best distance is the 200m. But he has no plans to focus on the 200m - at least over the foreseeable future. “No, not at all. If anything it would be the opposite,” he laughs. “(Maybe) Later on in my career when I am old, and I can’t train as hard anymore, but definitely not now. Definitely both will be my focus.” “Definitely the ultimate goal would be if I could win the Tokyo Olympics 100m, win the 200m and we have a great relay team, it would be great to have a sweep. I just take one step at a time and focus on what I can control and focus on this year first.”

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.

Pep Guardiola insisted Manchester City have not been offered Manchester United star Paul Pogba again despite the Frenchman being linked with the Old Trafford exit. Pogba has endured another erratic season at United, finding himself in and out of the team under Jose Mourinho, before suffering another dip in form recently. Although consistency continues to elude Pogba, he has managed to score 13 Premier League goals this term and set up another nine. Pogba was linked with City last season when Guardiola claimed - just before the derby - his agent had offered him to United's rivals, while Real Madrid are said to be circling following the return of Zinedine Zidane as coach. But, ahead of Wednesday's Manchester derby, Guardiola refused to stoke any pre-match controversy again, insisting City have not been offered the World Cup-winning midfielder once more by agent Mino Raiola. "No. No, no, definitely not," Guardiola told reporters when asked if Pogba had been made available to him. "He's a player for Man United." Guardiola is already spoilt for choice in midfield, even withKevin De Bruyneexpected to miss the derby through another knee injury. Phil Foden impressed against Tottenham last time out, scoring the only goal of the game in just his second Premier League start and he could start against United for the first time in De Bruyne's stead. "Yes, he [Foden] is ready," Guardiolasaid of the Stockport-born 18-year-old. "I don't know the importance to be a Man City fan or if being involved in that is going to help or not, but he is ready, of course. "He would not be here [if he wasn't ready]. We'll see [if he starts] - I have to dream tonight."