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The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), the agency of government charged with developing and improving the island’s tourism product, is placing emphasis on community-based tourism as a means of attracting more visitors to the island.
Addressing the Manchester Development Committee’s quarterly meeting on July 28 at the Ridgemount United Church in Mandeville, TPDCo Regional Coordinator, Fabian Holness, said that the aim is to diversify the product offering to cater to various needs, and strengthen the country’s appeal among a wider cross-section of vacationers.
“We are now being forced to rethink our approach by seeking new methods of attracting visitors, hence the need to place more emphasis on the development of community-based tourism, not as a replacement for traditional tourism, but as an addition to that,” he explained.
“It also provides an opportunity for citizens within the participating communities to become ambassadors, while alleviating poverty for themselves and their families,” he noted further.
Community- based tourism involves local residents inviting tourists to visit their communities, and in most cases, providing overnight accommodation. The tourist is able to experience and discover local habitats and wildlife, and celebrate traditional cultures and rituals, while residents earn from the provision of goods and services, including beds and meals.
The concept has existed in Jamaica for many years at an informal level, where visitors live with Jamaican families, participating in and learning about the Jamaican way of life, while experiencing the country’s warm hospitality.
Mr. Holness said however, that TPDCo is looking to formalise the process and put measures in place to ensure its sustainability and that communities benefit.
He informed that the south coast, which boasts most of the island’s community tourism projects, is one of two tourist regions selected for a pilot, as TPDCo looks to drive the process.
“We have some of the most fertile and attractive natural resources and resourceful people in this region, and for this pilot, we are looking at incorporating viable community-based tourism activities between Clarendon and St. Elizabeth as part of our plans, and in an effort to re-establish the already known fact that the region is the community tourism centre of Jamaica,” Mr. Holness said.
In the meantime, he said that community-based tourism committees are being set up in each resort region, and these groups will identify viable projects, and work with the respective stakeholders at the community level to develop them.
“Each project that has been identified must have some element of agro-tourism, eco-tourism, bed and breakfast, art and craft, or culture/heritage tourism. These are five components that we think we would like to assist in developing, and elements of these can be easily found in most areas where there are tourism activities,” Mr. Holness said.
He informed that the agency has engaged the services of a specialist to establish a national Bed and Breakfast Association. The specialist is currently working to get persons already providing such service, to “participate in the formalisation of their respective activities, so that they can be promoted as one package,” he said.
He assured that the “relevant training and capacity building will be provided for the individuals involved in the programme”.