How much is entertainment worth? - Industry insiders believe figure is still not known

May 15, 2020
Patrons enjoying the water at Wet N Wild, at Kool Runnings Adventure Park during last year’s Dream Weekend.
Patrons enjoying the water at Wet N Wild, at Kool Runnings Adventure Park during last year’s Dream Weekend.
Revellers having a good time along the Xodus Jamaica Carnival route last year.
Revellers having a good time along the Xodus Jamaica Carnival route last year.
Kam-Au Amen
Kam-Au Amen

Although the actual worth of the entertainment industry in Jamaica has not been determined to date, it is without doubt that the sector has been of major value to the economy.

Quick calculations from less than a handful of major events like Carnival, Reggae Sumfest, and Dream Weekend, revealed close to $10 billion in revenue impact.

However, Kamal Bankay, chairman of sports and entertainment in the Ministry of Tourism, tells eProbe that outside of the revenue impact, the sector has other significant impacts, especially on tourism.

"Since the new Carnival-in-Jamaica branding push started in 2017, April has seen record-breaking arrivals year after year directly attributed to Carnival. Kingston has seen a phenomenal tourism boom from it as well, with all hotels being sold out for Carnival week, rental car companies sold out, and restaurants are full," he said.

According to Bankay, the summer has taken over as the number one tourist-arrival season for Jamaica's calendar year.

"Festivals like Dream Weekend, Reggae Sumfest, Grand Gala, and other Emancipendence celebrations are major factors that have pushed summer to eclipse the long-standing winter season. We find that in Negril, hoteliers have their highest rates for consumers for Dream (Weekend), higher than any other time of the year, and they are still at 100 per cent occupancy," he said.

But outside of these big events that offer a major boost to the economy, more localised events have also been making significant impacts.

In a 2018 article posted on the Jamaica Information Service website, Entertainment Minister Olivia Grange reported that the sector did very well in 2017 as there were increases in the number of events staged across the island, the Jamaica Constabulary Force reporting that 19,158 events were held.

"These events provided more than 30,000 temporary jobs ... . The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation collected a whopping $28 million from entertainment licences," Grange was quoted as saying.

Industry's actual worth

Between 2013 and 2017, the value of entertainment to the economy was estimated to be $107 billion (US$836 million), and between 2012 and 2017, some 120,264 events were granted permits.

But Kam-Au Amen, entertainment business trainer and media entrepreneur, says the figures only accounts for a fraction of the industry's actual worth.

"The reality is that in the global context, entertainment is considered way more than how we see it locally," he said.

Amen says that the industry spans a much wider cross-section to include "the visual and performing arts, music, events, and festivals, audio-visual (radio, film, and television), Internet and online gaming, publishing, sports, tourism and travel, amusement and theme parks, gaming and wagering, and toys and games. So when you take these sectors combined, they contribute a significant amount of revenue to the Jamaican economy."

However, Amen says a major part of the problem of ascribing an exact value to the entertainment industry is that studies have not been extensive enough.

Nevertheless, a few economists like Vanus James and Michael Witter have been able to offer some estimates for some segments of the entertainment industry.

"Witter argued some years ago that Jamaica's music was worth US$2.5 billion, which doesn't necessarily mean that that is what it is worth to Jamaica itself since the truth is that most of Jamaica's music forms - ska, dub, reggae, dancehall, and our sound-system culture - have taken on a life of their own outside of Jamaica, living very vibrant lives, devoid of any Jamaican involvement in many cases," he said.

James, in his 2007 study, The Economic Contribution of Copyright-Based Industries in Jamaica, using data from STATIN, found that the copyright-based industries, whose sectors parallel the entertainment industry, contributed an estimated 4.8 per cent (about US$464.7 million) to Jamaica's GDP back in 2005. But James said that the actual numbers are likely to be higher once more data can be gathered.

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