Robert Stephens | Enclave tourism not the answer
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Jamaican Government and the sponsor tourism bodies must be commended for organising the just-concluded Sustainable Tourism Conference in Montego Bay.
The array of speakers gathered and the presentations I was privileged to attend last Tuesday were all very interesting and relevant, with a consistent message of the importance of involvement of local stakeholders to ensure the benefits accrue to the local population and that there is truly sustainable development.
Jamaica has developed tourism, which, to put it mildly, contrasts significantly with this approach and, in fact, is a case study in how not to develop tourism. We need our policymakers to fully understand and accept where we have gone wrong in the past and where we need to go for the future.
It was interesting that when our minister of tourism spoke, he referred to Jamaica as being a “model of tourism sustainability”, and I believe that we need to seriously take stock of where we are and be honest in our assessment. We should learn from the lessons of those who were here for the conference what the true meaning of sustainable development of tourism is all about.
Currently, Jamaica is reaping the results of what is classified as ‘enclave tourism development’, where we have developed beautiful enclaves as areas of splendour with manicured gardens and well-preserved and maintained facilities with exclusive beaches. On the other side of the beach and highway, we have squatter settlements and degraded communities that cry out for attention and infrastructure development.
The above scenario is prevailing islandwide, and in particular in our major tourism towns, including Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, Falmouth and Port Antonio.
The case of Port Antonio and Falmouth stand out as examples of how not to do sustainable development, as the segregation of the developed areas around the cruise port facilities being enclosed with security fences that are designed to keep a physical barrier between the visitors and the local population is not a model for sustainable development.
The results of our policies and strategies in the past have led to the creation of settlements which are now referred to as zones of special operations in which crime and violence is out of control, and special attention has had to be focused by the security forces.
These communities and the people who live in them are not born evil, but we have neglected addressing their needs. Having set up institutions like the National Housing Trust, we do not use the resources available to provide the necessary infrastructure and social amenities to integrate these areas but continue to neglect their development and instead focus on increasing their policing and isolation from mainstream society.
At the end of the day, we complain about the levels of crime and violence, but do we really address the root causes of the problem, or are we perpetuating the cancer by continuing an isolationist approach?
If we are seriously going to address our development, we need to open our eyes and to realise where we have gone wrong and adjust our policies to support more sustainable development. Integrating our communities in the planning, development and implementation, as well as ownership and not just employment in the industry, must be our model for the future. Robert Stephens is president of Pragma Consultants Ltd. Email feedback to