JSIF launches community tourism boot camp
The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has provided tourism stakeholders with an opportunity to learn the benefits of community-based tourism through yesterday's launch of its three-day Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) boot camp at the Sunset Beach Resort in Montego Bay, St James.
The objectives of the boot camp, which will run until Sunday, include the promotion of mechanisms that will provide healthy interaction opportunities for visitors and locals within their communities; marketing and mentoring support for local tourism interests; and the preservation and enhancement of local culture as well as natural and man-made tourist resources.
In his keynote address at the launch, Dennis Hickey, executive director of the Tourism Product Development Company Limited, said that tourists are gravitating towards greater exposure to Jamaica's culture, and the local community should be educated on the benefits to be derived from such interest.
"Community-based tourism enables the tourist to discover local things like the flora, fauna, and landscapes; to discover, study and enjoy traditional cultures, rituals, and wisdom," said Hickey. "The community will be aware of the commercial and social value placed on their rural and cultural heritage, and this should foster community-based conservation of these resources."
Continued Hickey: "Com-munity-based tourism is undoubtedly important to Jamaica's tourism product ... . No longer do tourists just want sun, sand, and sea, but they also desire to know about the culture of a destination, the people, and for many of them, it is more of an experience."
He added: "With this in mind, we must be responsible and not only encourage, but support the entities that can appeal to this new demographic."
Several cultural and environmental interest groups from across the island will take part in the three-day REDI boot camp.