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Jamaica, with its rich history, has the potential to cash in on the cultural heritage tourism market, which is estimated by the World Tourism Organisation, to generate more than 160 million trips per annum.
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, has said that with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico, “there is no other Caribbean island, which can boast a wealth of cultural heritage to outpace Jamaica.”
“It is precisely because Jamaica has paid attention to our cultural heritage that we are one of the most attractive tourism destinations in the Caribbean,” the Minister stated, in a speech read by Executive Director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, Ian Neita, at a dinner at Fort Charles, Port Royal on Tuesday (Sept. 15), for delegates attending the Inter-city Intangible Cultural Co-operation Network (ICCN) conference.
He said that the nation’s recent successes on the world sporting stage have led to “a major interest into who Jamaicans are as a people, what is our history and what it is that makes us run so fast and why we dance the way we do.”
“Recognising all of this, development and marketing of our cultural heritage icons is part of our tourism development strategy. We strongly believe in this approach, and certainly advocate it for countries, which have such assets,” he stated.
Statistics from the World Tourist Organisation indicate the about 20 per cent of tourist trips worldwide incorporate some form of cultural, heritage or historical activity and the market has the potential for growth, fuelled by the growing list of world heritage sites being recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Mr. Bartlett pointed out that of the more than 890 locations that UNESCO considers as having outstanding universal value, “Jamaica is privileged to have three such sites on a tentative list. In addition to Port Royal, (there is) Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, (and) Seville Heritage Park, which is the site of one of the first Spanish settlements in the new world, dating from 1509.”
He contended that as awareness of UNESCO’s world heritage sites increase and their cultural importance is more fully recognised, demand to visit these sites, especially those classified as ‘in danger,’ is likely to increase the volume of cultural tourists worldwide.
A number of Mayors, Deputy Mayors, counsellors, and secretary managers were at the dinner, which was hosted by His Worship the Mayor of Kingston, Senator Desmond McKenzie.
The three-day ICCN conference, which ended yesterday (Sept. 17) at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, sought to facilitate an avenue that will showcase and enhance the rich intangible cultural heritage of member cities and countries. Intangible heritage includes the performing arts such as traditional music, dance and theatre; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and traditional craftmanship.
The ICCN is an international organisation of local government officials and their administrators, which aims to safeguard the cultural heritage of member countries, at the local level. This initiative was developed at the International Round Table of Mayors on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Korea in 2004.

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