Jamaica urged to adapt to toursim needs
Executive Director of the Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo) Dennis Hickey has urged communities to identify niche products and offerings in their areas and get involved in community-based tourism in order to reap attractive economic gains.
"Notwithstanding the challenges, there are many opportunities, and communities must recognise the gold mine on which they are sitting. Communities must seek to package and sell what is unique to the area, be it cuisine, trails, ecosystems, an event, culture or heritage," Hickey said.
He was delivering the keynote address at the official launch of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Boot Camp/Workshop for Community-Based Tourism Enterprises at the Sunset Beach Resort and Spa in Montego Bay on Thursday.
The boot camp, which runs from June 25 to 28, is organised through the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment in conjunction with the JSIF. This collaboration has seen the development of the Rural Economic Development Initiative, which is responsible for training at the camp.
The executive director said that community tourism is a growing and important phenomenon and would help members of the community to benefit through improved livelihoods.
"Communities must enlighten themselves, as you are doing here today, and invest in themselves in order to reap the benefits that tourism has to offer. I believe that strength is in unity, and community members must come together to realise the potential of their area," Hickey emphasised.
He cited recent research carried out by the Ministry of Tourism, which indicates that the profile of the visitor is changing as no longer do tourists just want to settle for "sun, sand, and sea", but they desire to know about the culture of a destination, the people, and to have a real experience.
"With all this in mind, we must be responsive to the needs of the market and not only encourage, but support these entities that can appeal to this new demographic. Government, through the TPDCo, has a special role to play in the development of community tourism ... and will act as facilitators to get you going," the executive director advised.
"We stand ready to give advice on how to develop a viable community business, to recommend marketing strategies, how to generally improve the quality of the product offering, as well as to monitor the development and seek improvements with you the operators. TPDCo is also able to facilitate training of staff within your operations to ensure necessary knowledge and skills for excellent service delivery," he added.