Makka pro makes waves for community tourism
SOUTHAVEN, St Thomas:
The wind is strong and the waves are high at Southaven, Yallahs, St Thomas. The weather is ideal for surfing. The Jamaica Surfing Association (JSA) saw this, and for nine years has hosted the Makka Pro International Surfing Contest there. This year's competition was held on July 25 and 26, at the Makka Surfing Beach.
"We wanted something to bring attention to Jamaican surfing ... and the standards of waves we have in Jamaica ... the world needs to know about it and the ability and talent of the local surfers. We need to be exposed, we need to build a name, we have to create local stars, and present them to the international media," Anthony 'Billy' Wilmot, president of the JSA, told Rural Xpress of the objective behind the staging of the contest.
But that's not all. Wilmot sees the contest developing into "alternative tourism", "people travelling to Jamaica to take part not just in surfing events, but for surfing vacation".
From a tourism perspective, Wilmot said, "It's doing well, but not from a traditional tourism perspective, but from an alternative tourism perspective, it is doing very, very well ... When people travel to Jamaica for this type of tourism, they stay local, they eat local, they use local facilities and services."
Income for citizens
This means that the money is spent directly with local stakeholders. And not much infrastructure is required, Wilmot said. Also, there is no need for five-star hotels, as people in the surrounding communities are encouraged to host surfers in their homes to earn some income.
"As you can see, we have partnered with Southaven Citizens' Association. They are the ones who have put in the accompanying attractions for the events. They have opened up their homes, and as times goes by, it will expand and grow," Wilmot said.
In speaking with Rural Xpress about the benefits of the contest to Southaven, Lynford Kirton said, "First of all, it has helped to put us on the map ... Whatever funds we derive from this, after we take out our cost, the rest goes towards community development, whether for example filling some potholes or painting over our stream signs ... We have positioned ourselves for those citizens who have extra accommodation to take part in the bed and breakfast programme, and this is how the ordinary citizens can benefit."
Also partnering with the JSA is the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) under the brand of Jamaica Sport.
"They have been with us for quite a few years now.
They understand the vision that we see, they realise that surf tourism is a viable alternative tourism product," Wilmot said of the JTB, which told Rural Xpress that it "has identified surfing as having tremendous potential for sport tourism".
"Jamaica is an amazingly diverse destination, but is not often identified with surfing. Makka Pro is just the vehicle to change that perception, and spread awareness about the quality of surfing here and the unique experience that awaits surfers," Jason K. Hall, deputy director of tourism (cruise, events and attractions) said.
More support needed
And after nine stagings, Wilmot said the JSA has partially fulfilled its objectives, and "would like to see corporate Jamaica taking the sport of surfing more seriously".
"I would like to see Jamaican internationally presented brands using surfing as a to tool and a vehicle to get their products to a different marketplace which comprises surfers from all over the world who have a certain taste in terms of the products they use," explained Wilmot, who is highly commended by the JTB for his efforts.
"Jamaica Tourist Board commends Billy Wilmot, his family and entire team for the work they have done and continue to do to promote surfing. They have been great partners and we look forward to growing this event to be a staple on the regional surfing calendar, attracting surfers from around the world," Hall told Rural Xpress.
But to get high quality surfers from around the world, Wilmot said the prize money has to get bigger.
"We want to add more prize money, the bigger the prize money, the higher calibre of surfers we attract," Wilmot explained.