Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
While the Government continues to champion tourism as the great panacea to rescue the economy, sixth-form students at William Knibb Memorial High School in Trelawny, are not enthused about placing their future in the sector.
During a Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum yesterday at William Knibb, the panel of eight students who discussed the topic, 'Falmouth: Jamaica's new economic frontier, fact or fiction?', expressed the view that ordinary Jamaicans no longer have an opportunity to be major players in the sector and were being viewed merely as cheap labour.
"There is segregation, no equal opportunity to get loans for the common man," said Brent Blair. "I am not fighting against the idea of working in the tourist industry but I don't want to build on another man's dream, so if I ventured into the industry, it would be by myself, not building on some rich guy's dream from Italy."
While Blair would not blow the chance to be involved as an entrepreneur, he said such opportunities are not open to the 'common man', who forms the vast majority of the populace in Trelawny.
Nastascia Gossel said the sector does not support enterprising Jamaicans who go out and get themselves well qualified as it would appear that opportunity only exists for person offering cheap labour.
"The industry is not developed properly," said Gossel. "When the students get their degrees and go for employment, hotel managers are usually only seeking cheap labour."
Tajera Morrison thinks racial prejudice is alive in the sector, a situation which she finds totally unacceptable, especially in regard to the high esteem in which she holds herself.
"When you are working in these hotels, they don't want a black person at their front desk, they want nice browning," said Morrison, who hinted that it might be one of the reasons why some persons have resorted to bleaching their skin.
Last year, the Falmouth Pier welcomed more than 612,512 visitors, which was much higher than all the other cruise-ship piers in Jamaica. However, despite that reality, the consensus among the sixth-formers was that tourism lacks the appeal to attract them.
Jilecia Green, one of the gifted group of sixth-formers who the school's sixth-form coordinator, Audrey Steel, described as her 'shining stars', said she does not plan to join the ever-growing list of young persons who are scrambling for the cheap job offers in tourism.
"I would not work in the tourist industry because it is too crowded," said Green. "There are too many persons hunting jobs in the industry."
Currently, tourism contributes between five and eight per cent of the gross domestic product and accounts for 41 per cent of the foreign exchange earned by the productive sector, while employing more than 80,000 persons.
Should we abandon tourism?
No, I don't think we should give up on tourism because there's always room for improvement.
No, because it has provided a lot of revenue for us; we just need to find a way to market it creatively for it to be successful.
No, because it is a very prosperous industry, and it has brought a lot to us.
Definitely not; I know a lot of persons who benefit from this, and this is their way of making a living.
No, we should try to bond together and improve the tourist industry.
No, we definitely should not abandon it; we just need to improve the conditions within the tourist industry and it will be a lot better for us.
No, I don't think we should abandon tourism because we gain foreign exchange from it; we just need to find a way to capitalise on what we gain from tourism.
No, I would say no; we should not try to abandon tourism in Jamaica, we should try to uplift tourism.