Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says community-based tourism has the potential to significantly boost employment for persons in rural Jamaica, while further driving the development of the product.
Speaking at the National Consultation on Community-based tourism, held at the Devonshire Restaurant at Devon House, in Kingston on September 8, Mr. Bartlett said the policy framework for the community-based tourism strategy will facilitate the provision of a wide range of job opportunities in the sector.
The consultation aims to facilitate further dialogue among stakeholders on the draft Community-based Tourism Policy and Strategy, which has been submitted to Cabinet for consideration.
In January 2010, the Ministry of Tourism and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) signed an agreement for the development of a community-based tourism policy under the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) project. The project is being funded by the Government of Jamaica and the World Bank, through a US$15 million loan.
“This will benefit and empower many vulnerable groups, such as women, young people, as well as under-skilled and unemployed individuals,” the Minister noted.
Mr. Bartlett said the policy will also help to address numerous weaknesses at the community level that have hampered the growth of community-based tourism enterprises for years, such as the lack of entrepreneurial capacity, and a limited understanding of tourism markets and the sector in general.
“The policy will target these shortcomings by providing appropriate approaches to planning and management for such entities as well as institutional arrangements, technical assistance and support,” he explained.
Mr. Bartlett informed that the policy and strategy, being developed under the guidance of the JSIF, is intended to facilitate the development of a framework aimed at enhancing the policy and institutional capacity needed to develop community-based tourism as a sustainable growth sector locally.
“I must underscore that this is a vital initiative, as despite the fact that the tourism sector remains the island’s primary foreign exchange earner and the driving force of the Jamaican economy, there is still considerable potential for further growth and development,” he said.
He pointed out that trends in the global travel market continue to indicate that there is an increased focus among visitors on heritage, culture, nature and adventure-based experiences. Hence, community-based tourism should provide the spring-board for further growth in the sector.
Mr. Bartlett said one of the main goals of the policy is to ensure that Jamaica’s distinctive and rich cultural and natural heritage is sought after by the discerning traveller, which will certainly aid in boosting tourism arrival and earnings.
“Despite our successes to date, broadening our range of tourism offerings remains an important pillar in our thrust to diversify our product, and developing community based tourism is key to this initiative,” he remarked.
He pointed out that figures from the USAID-REACT’s International and Domestic Visitor Profile Report 2007 indicate that European visitors have a strong interest in ‘off-the-beaten path tourism’ in Jamaica, which accounts for a high number of Europeans who visit the South Coast.
“The vast majority of these visitors, that is 79 per cent, come to enjoy nature experiences; 65 per cent for heritage and culture guided tours, while adventure tours account for 61 per cent,” he said.