Opportunities for Heritage Tourism in Jamaica

Photo: Contributed by Jamaica National Heritage Trust Seville Great House and Heritage Park in St Ann

Story Highlights

  • The managers of two historical sites are trying to cash in on the benefits that can accrue from heritage tourism initiatives.
  • Improvements are taking place at the Seville Great House and Heritage Park in St Ann and the Good Hope Great House in Trelawny, to benefit from the increased visitor numbers.
  • Situated on a 301-acre property, it is regarded as one of Jamaica’s most significant heritage sites.

The managers of two historical sites are trying to cash in on the benefits that can accrue from heritage tourism initiatives.

Improvements are taking place at the Seville Great House and Heritage Park in St Ann and the Good Hope Great House in Trelawny, to benefit from the increased visitor numbers.

The Seville Great House is getting a facelift with funds allocated under the National Protective Areas Project received from the National Environment and Planning Agency.

Operations Manager of the Seville Great House and Heritage Park, Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Claudette Anderson said the aim is to encourage more visitors to the site and to capitalise on its rich history.

She said the Great House has so far received 13 sets of antique park benches with tables, along with five extra benches. The project also includes the installation of a gate in front of the property.

Mrs. Anderson said that replicas of the Taino Village and the African House areas on the site, will be refurbished and equipped with story boards. In addition, she said that Wi-Fi will be provided so that the public can have access to the Internet. “We are hoping that by the end of this month, this will be in place,” she added.

“So it is just a matter of having the site opened as a park as well as a museum so that persons can come and relax and enjoy the day,” Mrs. Anderson continued.

At the moment, the Great House offers free admission to the heritage site, however, Mrs. Anderson disclosed that the public will soon be asked to pay an entrance fee.

The Operations Manager said there are future plans to have the Great House and Heritage Park inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List.

“We are about to embark on a project to get it listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. So in a matter of three years at most, we should have the process up and running to get it on the World Heritage Site,” she said.

She noted that the site has received international recognition having been placed on UNESCO’s Tentative List. A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties which each member state intends to consider for nomination on the World Heritage List (WHL).

Nominations to the WHL will not be considered unless the nominated property has already been included on the Tentative List.

“So the fact that it is on UNESCO’s world heritage site tentatively, it is a pull,” she said, adding that a total of 12,000 persons, including students, local and foreign visitors from tour companies and hotels visit the Great House each year.

Situated on a 301-acre property, it is regarded as one of Jamaica’s most significant heritage sites.

It includes the archaeological remains of the indigenous Amerindian (Taino) village of Maima, the 16th century Spanish settlement of Sevilla la Nueva, the post-1655 British sugar plantation known as New Seville, and the landscape and flora that existed during that time.

“This is like a gem of Jamaica, just to come here and know the rich history of the site and its importance to the Jamaican people, this in itself is a selling point,” Mrs. Anderson told JIS News.

The operations manager said the site is earning an income and can benefit a lot more if certain challenges are overcome. She cited the need for additional funds to maintain the site and the need for a gift shop and a place for refreshments.

“If we can just overcome these challenges, I am sure you would have more persons coming,” she added.

General Manager of the Good Hope Great House, James Robertson told JIS News that between 80,000 to 90,000 persons visit the Great House every year to experience the Jamaican culture.

“Heritage tourism is massive business because no one can make it up. You can make as many tours as you like travelling around the countryside but you have to have these extraordinary buildings, you can’t make them, you can’t build them,” he said.

He said that continuous restoration work has been done on the 17th century buildings on the former sugar plantation by its four owners in the last 250 years.

“It’s been an absolutely huge undertaking which was done privately by the Hart Family,” he revealed, noting that they planted vegetable crops and fruit trees to maintain the estate.

Apart from viewing the Georgian architect, visitors can participate in a plethora of activities, including river tubing, jet lining through the jungle, plantation tours to places of interest.

“We get a lot of local people beginning to come from Kingston. With the new road from Kingston to Ochi, families are beginning to come and they are amazed that they can come, have fun and have a wonderful day and can see the history of Jamaica,” he added.

Mr. Robertson, who is also the Chairman of the Georgian Society for Falmouth, said that tourists want to see “that extraordinary tangible history of the Georgian period” when they visit Jamaica. He revealed plans to restore a sugar factory on the site.

“We want to tell the story of sugar and rum. We want people to be able to walk through the building and see huge pictures, story boards, art and understand how these things were made and how they were treated and processed,” he said.

The General Manager expressed the need for a budget to sustain heritage tourism and to exploit the country’s natural resources and “amazing buildings.”

“We have thousands of people who come and some only want to do a high tea on the terrace at the great house or a historical tour. Many of them want to see all of the historical buildings and so we cater for all of those things,” he added.

Meanwhile, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange said the Ministry is working with a number of agencies in promoting heritage based initiatives, as part of its World Heritage Programme.

She referred to the first Economic Opportunities workshop hosted in May 2016 to ensure that entrepreneurs within Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow World Heritage site are able to take advantage of increased visitor numbers.

The minister mentioned the many opportunities for community tourism, such as heritage tourism, guided tours, hiking and day excursions, camping, gastronomic tourism and tours within the Site.

“World Heritage designation also presents opportunities for further promotion of existing tours and excursions and the creation of new cultural and tourism products for the public consumption,” Minister Grange added.

The Culture Minister lauded the work being done by private sector entities in the area of heritage tourism. She stated that an increasing number of private individuals are purchasing heritage properties and transforming these spaces into viable centres for heritage tourism.

Notable examples, she said, are the Good Hope Great House, Greenwood Great House in St James, Liberty Hill Great House in St Ann and Halse Hall Great House in Clarendon.

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