Tourism is big bucks, it is the lifeblood of the Jamaican economy and is the largest fx earner (legally at least) and employs thousands of people both directly and indirectly. Jamaica has seen its arrivals steadily increase over the years but we still are yet to see the double digit growth in the tourism sector and proper linkages with the broader society that we all yearn for.
This in my humble opinion is because Jamaica is aiming to promote one type of tourism as opposed to trying to extract as much from the entire industry. An example to illustrate my point is that we heavily push ads about our sand and sea, but rarely if ever do we promote for example our coffee or coconut walks.
Jamaica should not restrict itself to one type of tourism and embrace all the aspects of tourism and their benefits.
Ecotourism is a multibillion dollar industry and one that Jamaica really should be taking advantage of. With some of the last remaining Caribbean forests and woods, with our exotic rivers and falls and with our breathtaking animal life this is an area that we could easily slip into. This is would have the added spinoff of ensuring that Jamaican flora and fauna is seriously protected while adding jobs to areas that currently struggle to employ people
Then we come historical tourism, this again is a multibillion dollar industry that Jamaica could easily be in. If you throw a stone in Jamaica you hit a historic site, be it the first grid pattern in this part of the world (see Kingston), be it the sunken parts of Port Royal, Nelsons old post, Falmouth and there Georgian houses, St Mary and Golden Eye. Jamaica should be aiming to lead in this department, we have a market (north America) that has shared a similar experience to ours as well as being the ancestral home to persons who made an immense impact in the States (see the Dallas family or the De Córdova family in Texas). We should be looking to exploit our rich history and monetize it as that again is low hanging fruit.
Entertainment tourism is also a sector that we should be looking to exploit. Blessed with so much talent this is one way in which Jamaica can both expose our budding talents while also providing them with a stable job and crucially experience a captive audience.
Finally we come to cultural tourism. This is an are that could be used to aid some of our least developed areas. Parishes such as St Thomas which are home to Kumina, Pocomani and Obeah practitioners are ideal areas where the culture tourist would visit if advertised (they are already somewhat visited even with the little coverage they receive).
The minister of tourism is not naive and many of the points made above have been mentioned recently by the minister. However they have also been mentioned by previous administrations and even made priorities with little to show in terms of results. Hopefully the minister will go all out with it this time as we can’t afford to dawdle, Cuba is opening and in spite of our confidence and big talk they are a threat. We need to get our act together quickly because if all we are offering is sun and sand then we will get left behind.