Entertainment potential untapped
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Stakeholders in the local music industry are of the view that if properly managed, entertainment tourism could well become the catalyst that would drive the Jamaican economy to prosperity.
Businessman Godfrey Dyer, a co-founder and director of Reggae Sumfest, believes the Ministry of Tourism needs to do more to capitalise on the global appeal of Jamaica's music.
"Entertainment can do more for tourism, but in my opinion, it is being undermined by shortsightedness," said Dyer, who is also a hotelier. "The (Jamaica) Tourist Board must give better support, not only to Jazz and Blues or Reggae Sumfest, but any such event that brings more visitors to our island."
According to saxophonist Dean Fraser, if swift action is not taken, foreign entities could capitalise on the worldwide appeal of Jamaica's music and end up earning the bulk of the money our musicians have the capacity to generate for the country.
ALL TALK, LITTLE ACTION
"Jamaica is all talk when it comes to our music as they don't take the music seriously," Fraser told Western Focus during last week's Jazz and Blues Festival in Trelawny. "Based on the sort of appeal that reggae music has internationally, we should see tourists camping out in tents just to be here for our music festivals."
"I believe that unless we wise up, we will see the same thing that happened to sports, happen to our music, where a foreign company invests in an athlete at a young age, and then later on reaps the benefits in areas like merchandising," continued Fraser.
"If there was any serious thinking about entertainment as a product, our musicians would be touring our resorts as is done in Las Vegas."
However, for Kamal Bankay, the director of marketing and publicity for Dream Entertainment, the promoters of the annual Dream Party series, things have got better in recent years.
"One could definitely say that not enough was being done some five years ago," said Bankay, "however, in recent times, as production levels increase, tourism arrivals for these events have also increased."
According to Bankay, in 2007, only 25 per cent of the patrons to his event were tourists. However, last year's staging saw over 50 per cent of those who attended flying in from other countries.
Damion Crawford, state minister in the Ministry of Tourism, said the Government had been a major sponsor of signature events like the Jazz and Blues Festival over the years, noting that such events are considered a vital part of visitors' experience.
"The Government has always supported these activities extensively, and with both the Government and private sector on-board, events such as Reggae Sumfest, Jazz and Blues, Rebel Salute, and the weekend party series in Negril can continue to be a vehicle for such growth," said Crawford.
However, former Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett does not buy into the view that the Government is doing the best it can and is calling for the development of a concept for entertainment tourism.
"There is no policy or framework for an investor to take us seriously," said Bartlett. "We need a big idea that is backed by serious money … . In fact, no serious discussion has been held, and we must understand that events tourism is the mega-hook to pull tourists to destinations."