JSIF positioning rural communities to benefit from tourism
Tourism Specialist at the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF),Beverly Stewart, says the agency, through its Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), is empowering Jamaicans to capitalise on the prospects in community-based tourism.
She noted that the area is fast outpacing sun, sea and sand travel.
"Experiential tourism is growing at 15-20 per cent while sun, sea and sand is only growing at three to four per cent... so we knew that there were going to be some opportunities," she pointed out.
She was speaking during a panel discussion on community tourism during Monday's session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.
The REDI project aims to improve market access for micro and small-scale rural agricultural producers and tourism projects. The overall objective is to reduce rural poverty by increasing the earning potential of rural communities.
Experiential travel is a form of tourism in which people focus on experiencing a country, city or particular place by connecting to its history, people and culture.
Stewart noted that JSIF has developed a National Community and Policy Strategy aimed at building an internationally competitive tourism sector that contributes to national interests while generating benefits for communities.
She outlined, further, that the agency has collaborated with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) to develop a tool kit that will assist individuals from the moment they conceptualise an idea to getting that product or service to market.
President and Founder of the New York-based Green Team Global Inc., Hugh Hough, for his part, said that community-based tourism offers significant benefits for Jamaica.
He noted that the sector is linked to sustainable adventure tourism, which is "really growing by leaps and bounds".
"Since 2009, it has grown by 65 per cent per year. In 2012, the spend was $345 billion, and that is expected to grow by $470 billion by 2022," he pointed out.
Hough said it is the responsibility of players within the community tourism sector "to create a need, so that visitors will gravitate towards the product that the country has to offer".