Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Communities in resort towns should play a part in tourism

Published:Saturday | January 28, 2017 | 1:00 AMSyranno Baines
Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism.

Harnessing tourism as a catalyst for community enrichment to divert persons from antisocial actions and towards more productive activities is the primary aim of the revitalised, Spruce Up Jamaica (SUJ) programme according to Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett at the SUJ press launch at Devon House on Tuesday.

Established in 2007, SUJ is a multifaceted umbrella programme of the Ministry of Tourism and its agencies, the Tourism Product Development Company Limited and the Tourism Enhancement Fund.

SUJ focuses on forging creative partnerships among the public and private sectors and the wider community in support of the growth agenda. In its previous form, SUJ was primarily a beautification programme to keep resort towns in immaculate condition. However, it has gradually expanded and has started to generate greater awareness and appreciation for the importance of tourism.

This revitalised phase will see strengthened implementation as well as monitoring for greater impact.

"If we have marching bands in the communities rather than guns firing, people will go. People will go wherever there is good music, entertainment, and fun," Bartlett told The Gleaner.

He added: "We want to help the communities around the resort areas in particular as many of those communities are now involved in the lottery scamming and other antisocial acts that are resulting in murders. Tourism wants to be a transformative agent in the communities, and that's what SUJ is about."

SUJ is major component of the ministry's growth strategy, which seeks to attract five million visitors by 2021; generate US$5 billion in tourism earnings; increase jobs to 125,000; and add 15,000 new hotel rooms.

Last year saw a record high of 3.8 million visitors to the island, an increase of 3.9 per cent from 2015. Tourism also recorded earnings of US$2.5 billion last year.