Jamaican Tourism Reflects a Changing World

Living in America, I normally don’t see or hear much about the outside world. American media focus on things American, providing information about the rest of the world only when events in other countries involve American interests. But beyond America’s television screens, the world is changing dramatically.

Consider Jamaican tourism, for example. When I worked at Tower Isle Hotel one summer back in the Fifties, “tourists” were Americans. There were British visitors, to be sure, but not that many. And those I met were mostly big shots like Sir Laurence Olivier’s son Tarquin. At Tower Isle, the American tourists were a cross-section of society – from millionaires to airline hostesses. But, needless to say, they were all white. I am talking about the Fifties, remember.

touristsThe thought that tourists would one day come from China never crossed my mind. So it’s an eye-opener for me to read this quote from Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett in today’s Daily Gleaner:

China has developed a stronger infrastructure for tourism traffic to Jamaica and several travel agents and business interests from China have visited Jamaica in the last seven months. 

Apparently, it was Jamaica’s athletes that prompted China’s interest. They attracted the world’s attention at the Olympic Games in Beijing, where sprinter Usain Bolt captured the 100 and 200 metres in world-record times. And they’ve done the same thing at the recent World Championships in Berlin.

Jamaica again amazed the world with Bolt exceeding his Beijing performances. The island’s athletes won 13 medals , second only to the United States which finished with 22 medals. And Jamaican officials are hoping this will lead to expanded tourism from Germany.

Bartlett said his ministry capitalized on the Jamaican team’s success by promoting the island in Berlin. He and Jamaica Tourist Board Chairman John Lynch met with German travel agents and discussed strategies to attract more Germans to Jamaica. According to the report in the Gleaner, Germany is Jamaica’s second-best tourism market in Europe – behind Britain.

Jamaican tourists now come from many countries. I came across an item in the Observer reporting that a Russian tour company was doing surprisingly well in promoting trips to Jamaica.

And American tourists long ago ceased to be all white. The last time I was in Jamaica, which was a couple of decades ago, the face of the tourist industry already had changed. Jamaica had become a vacation haven for the black American middle class. I imagine that on my next visit, I will see even more dramatic changes. And I am sure the face of Jamaica’s tourist industry will provide a more accurate picture of the changing world than the media reports to which I am exposed in America.