We sent Richard Hammond, Executive Producer of Greentraveller Media, to Jamaica to film our work on the ground. On his return, he shared his insights and extra footage that didn’t make the cut (but we wished it could!) in our Jamaica Destination film
“When people come to Jamaica, they want to see the REAL Jamaica,” explained Queen B, after a morning leading our film crew around the Rastafari Indigenous Village, a community enterprise in the hills above Montego Bay.
“Most people think that all of Jamaica are Rastafari. Even the red, gold and green flag that we have – people think that it is also the flag of Jamaica. So, of course, they want to know: ‘Who ARE these people that have had this great impact on the world?’”
Queen B guided us barefoot across a shallow stream (she explained this was a Rastafari custom) to reach the village, where she led us around, providing an insight into the gentle way of life of the Rastafari, and giving us the opportunity to take part in drumming, singing and making handicrafts.
The Travel Foundation has helped the Village adapt their visitor experiences so that they can appeal more to international visitors and, in doing so, enable them to work with national and international tour operators.
“What the Travel Foundation actually gave us, was a boost in our identity,” explained Firstman, the leader of The Rastafari Indigenous Village. “They were the ones that came and showed us we do have a value; a value that you could charge for in a particular way… that was very important in assisting us in how to create the language for interfacing with international tour companies.”
The Rastafari Indigenous Village is just one of several inspiring projects where I have seen first-hand how the Travel Foundation is helping to cultivate the interaction between visitors and local businesses to develop the resilience of each destination and bring about a more sustainable form of tourism.
In Montego Bay, one of Jamaica’s tourism hotspots, I saw how the Travel Foundation is working with the Jamaican-based tourism development organisation, TPDCo, to train about eighty local craftspeople on adapting their operations and products to make them more attractive to international visitors. Floyd Hitchman, Supervisor of Harbour Street Craft Market, explained to me that the positive impact of visitors’ purchases goes far beyond helping the market traders pay their rent to the local municipality. The improved trade helps craftspeople provide health and schooling for their children (often the craft market is the trader’s only income); it generates business for the local fruit and food sellers adjacent to the market; and it also creates more revenue for taxi drivers who take visitors to and from the market.
I was then taken to the nearby Montego Bay marine park to have a go at snorkeling and saw for myself the wide array of locally-run, marine-based activities. In one spot alone, I could see scuba diving, dingy sailing, yachting and para sailing in full view of several enormous cruise ships. What struck me was the sheer volume of visitors in this popular part of Jamaica and the potential there is for them to bring genuine economic benefits to local businesses. If just a fraction of these visitors buys something locally – whether a marine-based activity or local craft from the artisan market – what a difference it makes, not only to the immediate beneficiaries but also indirectly to the wider community. In the clip below, Joshua Bailey, from the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust, explains how they worked with the Travel Foundation to encourage more visitors step outside their all-inclusive hotels and support marine-based businesses in Montego Bay.
Lastly, we met the in-destination staff and tour operators who can also have a real influence on the culture of tourism and the uptake of sustainable approaches. Sebastien Remience, Marketing & Revenue Manager (USA & Caribbean) at TUI GROUP explained that TUI is focussed on redefining how guests experience Jamaica with a move towards including local communities more in their operations. He says this is in response to consumer demand for “getting in touch with local Jamaicans – with the real life.”
Throughout my trip, the desire for cultural authenticity cropped up time and again. And what becomes apparent, is how this desire to experience the REAL Jamaica can create mutually beneficial experiences for tourists, tour providers and local communities alike. We’ve come across people who have told us in their own words how this vision can be achieved – and their stories reflect the efforts that the Travel Foundation team has made to instigate genuine changes at grassroots level for the benefit of both the destination and its visitors.