Underdeveloped heritage sites and attractions to receive more financial and marketing support
In an effort to improve and expand the quality of Jamaica's tourism product, owners and managers of underdeveloped heritage sites and attractions are to receive more financial and marketing support, Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill said yesterday.
Speaking during a tour of several attractions in St Mary, McNeill noted that his ministry was working hard to develop new ways of supporting small and aspiring business owners in the tourism sector.
McNeill told The Gleaner: "We have been touring the country looking at the different offerings we have in terms of attractions and heritage sites, and it's amazing what Jamaica has to offer.
"Oftentimes, these things are hidden away and you have people doing projects on their own, who may not necessarily be getting the support they could get."
"Interestingly," he continued, "it coincides with the launch of our 'Experience Jamaica' campaign where we encourage Jamaicans to enjoy what Jamaica has to offer. We are trying to crank that programme up this year, but a natural extension of that has to be for you to be constantly growing the tourism product you have."
During the tour, which included brief trips to the Water Land Aqua-park, Pagee Beach, and Robins Bay Hotel and School, McNeill noted that heritage tourism is becoming increasingly popular among international visitors.
He said: "We did a tourism master plan at the turn of the millennium and one of the things we found was that while the people who travel do still enjoy the sun, sand, and sea, they are driven largely by other experiences. And it's amazing because what really differentiates Jamaica and makes us so special is that we have so much to offer in terms of heritage and culture."
Improvements to the road network were also high on the agenda with the Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Richard Azan, also on the tour to inspect repairs recently made on the Frankfurt to Gayle Road at a cost of more than $6.5 million.
Member of Parliament for Western St Mary, Joylan Silvera, said: "St Mary needs employment and injections of capital generate employment. We must also understand that tourism contributes to a major chunk of the foreign exchange that comes in, so we have to protect and nurture it.
"The attraction where we are now, Water Land, is in the development stage, but all the signs are excellent. If we can encourage the minister of tourism to look at this and some of the other sites we have in the parish, it will encourage better interaction with the tourism ministry, drive employment and create a better tourism product than what we have now."