Letter of the Day | Tourism model skewed to ‘the big man’
THE EDITOR, Sir:
In spite of all the positive economic fundamentals for Jamaica and the activity in tourism in particular, our GDP growth rate remains anaemic in the range of one to two per cent.
I suggest that the real reason for this situation is that we fail to approach tourism development planning and implementation from a sustainable perspective.
We keep on making the same mistakes of selling off our prime real estate on our coastline to mainly major international hotel developers without ensuring that these investments really benefit and improve the lives of our local population, other than providing mostly lower-paying jobs in all-inclusive resorts.
Sustainable planning and development must look at the needs of our people and how we can move them from poverty to true prosperity.
Selling land to developers to build hotel rooms with inadequate provision for worker housing, infrastructure for the surrounding areas, and the improvement of social services, including health facilities, police stations, and recreational facilities is perpetuating underdevelopment and encouraging squatting.
Furthermore, most of the earnings from these major foreign investors are the subject of tax-free concessions and, in many cases, do not even reach Jamaica, as they only report a portion of their earnings to provide sufficient funding for the payment of their staff and to buy some local supplies.
In the case of cruise shipping, we should have learned from the strategies adopted in Port Antonio and Falmouth where we developed fancy gated areas for the visitors while neglecting the basic infrastructure and development needs of the towns. Therefore, we did not reap the expected outcomes for our people.
Falmouth is now having massive declines of visitors and Port Antonio really never got out of one or two visits of cruise ships per year, yet we spent massive amounts of capital on these facilities.
Now we are doing the same thing in Port Royal, spending more than US$40 million on establishing a cruise pier and an area for buses to take visitors to Kingston without making the necessary investment in developing the basic infrastructure and facilities in the town of Port Royal.
We need our heads examined.