If you were born when World Tourism Day was created, then it has been 40 glorious years since your birth and like you have, the industry has seen many changes, improvements, setbacks, while celebrating many successes. The theme this year focuses on “tourism and rural development” and will be recognized and celebrated all over the world come September 27th. Here in Jamaica, we have dedicated a whole week to share information about the industry, which of course will be mostly digital due to the current pandemic.
With tourism evolving and changing as we speak; the theme is most fitting, being that many types of tourism are emerging and thriving globally. Rural communities are now becoming appealing to the new type of traveler who prefers an authentic and intimate type of stay. This type of traveler feels more inclined to immerse themselves in the culture and heritage of the country, which is mostly found in smaller, tucked away communities.
The heightened interest in small, isolated communities led to the growth and expansion of community tourism, a type of tourism which is typically found in rural communities. It was welcomed in Jamaica by its residents as it presented an opportunity to exercise entrepreneurial skills, and to most importantly, earn an income and provide jobs for locals. Treasure Beach, which is located on Jamaica’s south coast is known as the home of community tourism. The community is a far cry from the resort life on the north coast, however, with its peaceful and tranquil environs, visitors started flocking. The fisherfolk, business owners, farmers and artists have been benefitting tremendously and in turn the community and the tourism industry.
In rural communities, agriculture, vending and artistic skills offer the most chance for income earning potential. In our very own Jamaica, many rural communities offer their goods and services to larger retailers to earn a living. It is for this same reason that organizations like TPDCo and JSIF/REDI felt compelled to assist in the development of rural communities to foster tourism growth. Residents of these communities were able to receive grants to start or improve their businesses, while through the services of TPDCo, others received free business consultations, technical support training in tour guide, Team Jamaica and customer service, and more to bring their businesses up to standard.
With further improvements such as access to technology and distance learning, rural communities, through tourism will be able to break down barriers and enhance their way of life. They will also be able to remain in their locale stemming the rural urban drift into the city where the lights are typically seen as brighter. Youth especially will be able to access decent jobs and wages, while contributing to innovation and change in these communities.
Unfortunately, many communities have seen fluctuations in business due to the coronavirus. This year is not like others for many individuals and businesses, some of which were just starting to realize a growth trend . We’d like to pause for a moment for those whose lives have been claimed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as those persons whose livelihood has been adversely affected.
“UNWTO has designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development. This Year is an opportunity to promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities. It can also advance inclusion and highlight the unique role tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration.” (www.unwto.org)