Connecting tourism and entertainment
Argentina's ambassador to Jamaica, Ariel Fernandez, is very enthusiastic about Jamaican popular music.
In a story in last Sunday's Gleaner, he spoke at length about not only the recent international reggae festival in Buenos Aires featuring Julian Marley and Michael Rose with Sly & Robbie, but also the numerous bands which play Jamaican music in his home country.
Then, a few days later, I heard Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett on radio talking about the potential of the South American market, with Argentina seen as the country which can lead the charge for increased visitor arrivals.
Of course, it does not take much to connect our music and people wanting to come to Jamaica, a link which the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) has long recognised and hence the sponsorship of various international events staged in Jamaica, among them Sumfest, Rebel Salute and, very briefly, Sting.
However, as we look at the pull that our music has for persons who pay to come to Jamaica to get a first-hand connection with Jamaican culture, perhaps we could develop a deeper appreciation of what they come for.
For while there is an influx of visitors for the large annual events, there is a steady presence of foreigners at the weekly events such as Uptown Mondays at Savannah Plaza on Constant Spring Road and Weddy Weddy at Stone Love's headquarters off Eastwood Park Road. They seem to come out of nowhere and they watch everything with the careful eye of the deeply interested. I do not know to what extent this consistent inflow is recognised and nurtured, because there would not be an obvious connection with a large event. Also, I don't know to what extent the JTB canvases these events to determine the presence of visitors, as it does at major festivals.
And I am not suggesting that they do so, with an eye at possible sponsorship, as this raises issues of content and, inevitably, regulation. So I am not suggesting that the JTB's signs be hoisted at a street dance nearby. However, it should be possible to take a representative or approximation of these events to the markets where there is interest.
The videos are already being watched heavily and the analytics will give a breakdown of where the viewers are from. Is it not possible, then, that in stimulating a particular market we could not only take popular practitioners there for a marketing blitz, but have them immersed in the country for a few months.
Yes, let them stay there and move around, just as the persons who come here to immerse themselves in Jamaican music do, with no State support. The costs would have to be weighed and, as it is an experiment, the benefits analysed in the long-term, for this is not an approach that would reap immediate gains.
It is something to think about, cultural immersion in reverse.