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Tourism Potential of StThomas Being Ignored

Published:Monday | August 17, 2015 | 4:27 PM

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen's lament about the state of affairs in St Thomas is being echoed by others in regards to the tourism potential of the parish.

Jamaican-born Assistant Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University in the United States, Dr Annmarie Nicely, has published a study which findings says St Thomas has much to gain from rural tourism.

Nicely told The Gleaner that St Thomas has a number of factors which make it an attractive tourist destination.

"St Thomas has a number of advantages, for one thing it is located close to Kingston, St Thomas has the potential in terms of domestic tourism. St Thomas has a number of historic sites, if I recall clearly the last tourism master plan listed St Thomas as having the most historical sites, but obviously the challenge is that there are bushes, they are not labelled properly and of course the people of St Thomas don't know what they have," she said.

Explaining what she describes in her study as non-engagement behaviours of community members, Nicely argued that the residents of the parish do not have an appreciation for the unique characteristics of St Thomas.

"St Thomas residents don't know what is there in the first place. The people of St Thomas don't know how special they are so they talk badly about themselves and I am talking about in terms of a tourism outlook, there is a culture of non-participation, there is a culture of others must do it for us that I think might be holding them back a little bit," she explained.

Nicely posited that the potential for tourism in St Thomas is centred on its natural environment.

"In terms of farms, you have farm tourism, in terms of wellness tourism you have bath fountain, you have the reggae falls and the close to nature way of life which the people of St Thomas are very proud; these are some of the things that could be developed into a tourism product," she outlined.

When asked what could be done to kickstart a robust tourism product in St Thomas, the tourism expert said that the parish requires bold leadership to move it forward.

"St Thomas has a problem in terms of leadership, having the right leadership to shape a vision and to guide us all, including myself as a researcher, and I think that is one of the major challenges that the parish has at this time."

There are no objective measures, we don't know how the leaders in the community, particularly in the mayor's office, just certain basic benchmark levels and the tourism product cannot be developed until that is addressed," she said.