Ecotourism: The answer to some of Clarendon’s problems
MAY PEN, Clarendon:
CLARENDON HAS been taking a beating over the last few months with its criminal activities. It sunk to an all time low with the heinous quadruple murder that rocked the quiet community of Monymusk a few weeks ago.
Given the negatives, it is easy to overlook the other attractive aspects of the parish that could ultimately lead to a thriving means of providing employment.
Ecotourism – which is about uniting conservation, communities, and exploring the natural environments and other attractive features could very well be the way forward for the parish.
In exploring Clarendon’s possibilities, The Gleaner spoke with Heather Christian, director of Milk River Mineral Bath & Spa Board of directors.
Christian who is very passionate about the topic, especially as it relates to Clarendon got involved in the Milk River attraction when she was appointed to the Milk River Mineral Bath & Spa Board by the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr, Wykeham McNeil.
“I believe in the development of tourism in Milk River because of its historical and cultural value that can be of considerable interest and benefit to both the local community, national and international visitors,” she said.
For her, enough is not being done to tap into the ecotourism arena in Clarendon.
“Visitors to Jamaica need to be informed about the local environment and culture in Clarendon. As well, the local government and community residents need to manage the natural areas to provide a positive experience for both visitors and themselves,” she said.
Clarendon boasts attractions such as Milk River mineral bath, Bull Head Mountain, Portland Bight, Salt River, Alligator Hole River, Farquhar’s Beach, God’s Well and Gut’s River.
According to Christian, one of the most common forms of sustainable tourism is ecotourism, “ideally, where there is ecotourism in communities in Clarendon, it should help to build the local economy. The local businesses like crafts people, hotels, restaurateurs can provide services that can help tourists discover local features while helping to improve the economy,” she pointed out.
It is Christian’s belief that tourism can take Clarendon a far way and act as a stimulus to sustainable economic and social development as well as the promotion of career training for young people, particularly in rural areas.
She said the benefits of community tourism cannot be reduced to economics alone.
“Tourism can strengthen the social fibre and civil society when tourism planning is done with host community involvement at the beginning.”
However, getting it implemented is easier said than done. Christian said it would take a consistent effort to see Clarendon get to that place where it can benefit from such an activity.
“Ecotourism enterprises are planned and managed at a local level. Community residents must stay involved at all stages of the process,” she said.
Christian also said agencies such as the Ministry of Tourism, Local Government, South Coast Resort Board and the local business organisations must partner in empowering the residents while encouraging travellers to their areas.
“All stakeholders as well as the local residents need to recognise the benefits to the parish. Therefore, they should make it their goal to meet this Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan for tourism; to enhancing the role of local communities in the tourism industry, to increase local support and enhance sustainability.”