Thu | Apr 27, 2017

Big boost for ecotourism lodge

Published:Sunday | November 2, 2014 | 11:00 AM
Members of the Bowden Pen Farmers' Association receiving goods and equipment towards the upgrading of the cabins and experience as part of a Rural Economic Development Initiative project. - Contributed
Ambassabeth Eco-Lodge in Bowden Pen, St Thomas. - Contributed
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The Bowden Pen Farmers' Association, which operates Ambassabeth Eco-Lodge as well as a number of hiking trails in the Rio Grande Valley, Portland, has received a boost to grow its unique attraction.

The association was recently presented with goods and equipment towards the upgrading of the cabins and the overall experience at the lodge.

The support was provided as part of the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) project, which is funded by the World Bank and the Government and is being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).

The project will improve the lodge's offerings from market-ready stage to export-market readiness.

According to Loy Malcolm, general manager, project management at JSIF, REDI will also fund the provision of marketing and promotional services to develop and run a promotional campaign.

"Essentially, this will feed into the association's aims to double occupancy by increasing visitor numbers to 500 per year by December 2015. This is to allow it to increase share of the ecotourism market in Jamaica."

Malcolm shared that investing in community-based tourism forms part of JSIF's continued support of this growing niche sector, as it contributes to the nation's economic and social development.

"Projects like this will benefit from National Community Tourism Policy and Strategy, which is in Green Paper stage, which is being facilitated through a partnership with JSIF and the Ministry of Tourism," added Malcolm.

ENHANCE AESTHETICS

Coordinator of the association, Linnette Wilks, said the REDI support will allow it to enhance the aesthetics of the cabins.

The Ambassabeth Eco-Lodge provides rustic, cosy and simple accommodations, as well as guided eco/nature tours on a number of hiking trails in the upper Rio Grande Valley, the buffer zone of the Blue and John Crow Mountains.

Currently, its customer segment includes local and foreign-based university students and researchers as well as backpacking nature lovers. The cabins provide a place of stay for ecotourism and volunteerism (volunteer tourism) niches.

Included in the scope of the project are equipping with goods such as bed linen made of fleece, television, projector screen, provision of solar panels, and a water purification system. The project will also cover training in housekeeping and business management.