• Feature
    Executive Director of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), Dr. Andrew Spencer (left), admires a bust of National Hero, Marcus Garvey, done by sculptor Dwight Thomas of Negril. Occasion was a tour at the Uniquely 876 Craft Fair, which was staged by TPDCo at the Whitter Village in Ironshore, Montego Bay, in December 2017.
    Photo: File Photo

    Story Highlights

    • The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) has been facilitating several product enhancement, business development and training programmes and initiatives to further boost the craft industry and diversify Jamaica’s tourism offerings.
    • “An important part of the tourism offering is craft, as it contributes to the diversity of the tourism product, demonstrates the colourfulness of our people and allows our visitors to take a piece of our culture with them,” TPDCo Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Spencer, tells JIS News.
    • He notes that the agency has been spearheading skills training sessions and workshops, hosting various activities to showcase and sell authentic Jamaican products made by the artisans.

    The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) has been facilitating several product enhancement, business development and training programmes and initiatives to further boost the craft industry and diversify Jamaica’s tourism offerings.

    “An important part of the tourism offering is craft, as it contributes to the diversity of the tourism product, demonstrates the colourfulness of our people and allows our visitors to take a piece of our culture with them,” TPDCo Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Spencer, tells JIS News.

    He notes that the agency has been spearheading skills training sessions and workshops, hosting various activities to showcase and sell authentic Jamaican products made by the artisans.

    Plans are afoot for the establishment of a craft development institute (CDI), and artisan villages in some of the resort areas.

    “We have seen the need to inject in the process to ensure that the craft traders are equipped to handle what is coming in terms of tourism growth, and so we are very heavily involved in skills training in a number of techniques using bamboo; recycled materials, including glass and coconut shell; textiles; papier mâché and fibre, which have to do with the various types of straws that are available in Jamaica,” Dr. Spencer outlines.

    Close to 200 persons benefited from training in craft enhancement and business planning as part of an 18-month craft-enhancement programme, which concluded in July 2016.

    The programme was implemented by TPDCo with funding support from the Organization of American States (OAS) and Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).

    The Executive Director says that TPDCo’s craft officers spearhead ongoing training across the island, particularly in the resort regions, with hundreds of persons benefiting.

    He adds that the training extends beyond craft enhancement, as individuals have also undergone language training in Spanish.

    “We see our role as primarily developing the human capital side of things and ensuring that they (craft individuals) are ready for what is to come. We want more of our products to be out there, so we have to teach new skills, refine old skills, and get more diverse products out there,” Dr. Spencer says.

    To this end, the proposed CDI is meant to be a machinery that allows for individuals with a particular skill set to refine those skills.

    “As it stands now, the TPDCo conducts its skills training as people request and as the needs are identified. However, the CDI will be one central location tasked to ensure that the country’s artisans are producing in the quantities that we need and at the quality that we need,” explains Dr. Spencer.

    On the matter of the artisan villages, the Executive Director indicates that five such villages are to be established in several of the island’s resort areas.

    The first, which is slated to be opened mid-2019, will be located at Hampden Wharf in Falmouth, Trelawny, and will be developed in collaboration with the Port Authority of Jamaica.

    The second will be located in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, and will be developed in partnership with the Urban Development Corporation (UDC). The others will be in Montego Bay, Negril and Port Antonio.

    “Construction of these spaces (artisan villages) will be of First-World quality, and the intention is to theme each of them. So for Falmouth, the theme will be based on the historical significance of the town; while for Ocho Rios, the theme will be based on music, with the layout of the shops reflecting this,” Dr. Spencer highlights.

    The villages will showcase locally produced, high-end craft products and will co-exist will the already established craft markets.

    To further showcase the work of the artisans and provide them with the opportunity to market their authentic Jamaican products, TPDCo stages several expos and craft fairs in the major resort areas throughout the year.

    Come December 19 and 20, the ‘Craft Extravaganza’ series will be held in the resort regions of Ocho Rios and Kingston, respectively.

    On display and for sale will be paintings, jewellery, textiles, bags, stone art, clothes, household products, and items made from screen-printing, crochet, leather, Hardanger embroidery and papier-mȃché.

    “It is about adding value, and if you are producing something of a certain quality, then it attracts a certain price point and it becomes a talking piece for the guests, as they will leave with a piece of the creativity of the Jamaican people .We have an end game and that end game is to ensure that people buy in Jamaica what is made in Jamaica,” Dr. Spencer tells JIS News.