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Exploring the viability of community tourism

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Diana McIntyre-Pike (fourth left, front row), hospitality and tourism consultant, and Noriel Jacobs-Gray (second left), programme coordinator, Hospitality and Tourism Management Programme, College of Business Administration and Hospitality Management at Northern Caribbean University, share a moment with faculty members and students of the college. McIntyre-Pike was the W.D. Carter Lecture Series presenter on the Mandeville campus. She persuasively spoke on the viability of community tourism. - Contributed

When most people think about tourism, they envision foreigners at a popular resort, lying, seemingly lifeless on the beach, soaking up the tropical sun.

They think of luxury and sophistication, rooms fully equipped with the latest gadgets, all controlled via remote. But, more often than not, people think of a place where room service is only a phone call away and where waiting in the wings to tailor to one's every need is a bellman fondly called 'Preacher'.

full potential of tourism

Speaking at the recently held W.D. Carter Lecture Series on the Mandeville campus of Northern Caribbean University (NCU), guest presenter Diana McIntyre-Pike, community tourism consultant/trainer, asserted that this scenario is not a true reflection of what tourism ought to be. She contends that the public and private sector must redefine their concept of tourism, as it is an experience that is not confined to the sun, sand and sea. The key to unlock the full potential of the tourism industry, she argues, lies in what is called community tourism.

"Every citizen is a potential partner to be trained in business management, environmental awareness, product development and marketing. Community tourism should be seen as the way forward for national development ... it encourages communities to actively participate in the tourism industry," she said.

She posited that world trends show that visitors are seeking more interaction with communities of host countries and are interested in having a community experience.The essence of community tourism speaks to providing a natural experience for visitors to immerse themselves in the culture, heritage, cuisine and lifestyle of host countries.

Community tourism, she advocated, aids in the development of communities as it offers many opportunities for them to participate as entrepreneurs while promoting their natural lifestyle and community as attractions that envelope local businesses, farms, schools, medical centres and even graveyards.

McIntyre-Pike challenged members of the NCU family to get involved in community tourism and suggested possible activities, academic and otherwise, that could be utilised to advance research and development in the field.

extraordinary concept

Patrice Brown, travel and tourism management major in the College of Business Administration and Hospitality Management at NCU, said, "The concept of community tourism is extraordinary as it shifts the focus of tourism away from the coastal areas to include rural Jamaica as well ... everyone benefits as visitors get a diverse experience that will encourage them to extend their vacation time and may even have them return year after year to experience the wonder of Jamaica."

Community tourism, however, hinges on a partnership where everyone has to be more responsible in tourism - the visitor, the developer and even providers of accommodation and attractions.

It is hoped that in the future, when people think about tourism, they will envision foreigners being warmly received in a community where they enjoy good 'ole time' Jamaican hospitality. They will think of tourists interacting with community members, sampling local cuisine, while exploring the roots of rural Jamaica. But more soothing than anything else is the image of a tourist sitting on a verandah, swapping stories with the community's only centenarian, a distinguished gentleman fondly called 'Mass Joe'.