Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
Former Tourism Minister Francis Tulloch is batting for the revamping and establishment of proper craft centres in Montego Bay, St James, and the employment of qualified Jamaicans in top jobs in the tourism sector.
Tulloch was chronicling 50 years of tourism in Jamaica at the University of Technology's tourism forum, held yesterday at the Montego Bay Convention Centre under the theme 50 Years of Tourism Growth and Beyond.
"I am disappointed that our craft vendors after so many years still don't have a proper craft market," Tulloch said. "Anybody, once you can afford it, can come from overseas, get the permit and open any little gift shop; not that I do not want foreigners here, I welcome them. But every other country in the Caribbean protects certain things in their country so that certain people there can live and benefit from the tourist industry. It is not so in Jamaica and it is high time that it is so."
Tulloch called for the top brass of the tourism ministry - Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill, and his junior minister Damion Crawford (who was present at the forum) - to act swiftly to address the situation with the craft vendors in Montego Bay, St James, and also urged the craft traders to seek to improve the way they do business.
"Please, if you go to the craft market, minister, Harbour Street and Old Fort Craft markets, look at the products. We see everybody selling the same things. We need for these people to diversify. All these people sell the same thing. That cannot work and they can't have their children running around the market and riding bicycles," he said.
Jamaica not mentioned
Quoting from a survey commissioned by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, Tulloch indicated that US$2 billion was spent in purchasing gifts in the Caribbean and Latin America but Jamaica was not mentioned.
"It was Bahamas that headed the list with the most purchases and Jamaica was not even mentioned. We have to look at our own product as it relates to what is offered as gifts."
Tulloch also advocated for more qualified Jamaicans to be given the top jobs in the hotels and other tourism-related fields as opposed to the mass recruitment of expatriates.
"When hotels are built in Jamaica, it is time that we ensure that qualified Jamaicans get a place in those hotels. It is very, very difficult to see work permits are granted to people whose jobs Jamaicans could do. Yes, we do get the waiter jobs, we do get some of the bartender jobs, but we don't really get the jobs that matter within the industry."
He said Jamaicans have proven to be some of the most prolific workers, but they continue to be overlooked in their own country.