THE Rastafari Indigenous Village (RIV) will be ready to accommodate stay-over tourist come next month.
RIV, which opened two years ago in Portabello, St James, was designed to offer an insight into the culture of Jamaica’s Rastafarian culture and the environment.
Its most recent improvement has been the completion of three new cottages, bathroom facilities including access for the disabled, a museum, business centre, and health and wellness facilities.
“We are just about fully ready for more tourists, all the policies are in place and approval has been given by the relevant authorities,” said Alberga McKenzie a director and member of RIV.
The cottages can accommodate 12 guests if they want to stay overnight, by the end of February, McKenzie said.
A total of $23.6 million is being spent by the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), a programme funded by the Government of Jamaica and the World Bank.
Through this programme, Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has been working on making the tourist attraction ready for the international marketplace by addressing inadequate and unsuitable accommodation of visitors; lack of bathroom facilities at site and a limited ability to market the tour widely, JSIF said in a press release.
The project is now 95 per cent complete, said Stephannie Hutchinson-Ffrench, JSIF project manager of REDI. It has been licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).
“The tours, which are interactive, start with a walk through the river (a natural stream of the Montego River),” said Hutchinson-Ffrench . “The experience offers visitors the chance to meet the people experience and enjoy roots and culture presentations on the history of the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica.”
Currently there is an average of three tours a week, which have been bringing in between 20 and 50 guests weekly. When it is fully completed, and after some marketing, McKenzie figures that number will triple that.
To reach international and local guests alike, McKenzie said that the marketeing will be online, via its website and on the JTB’s website.
The plan is to also place advertisements on cable and local television and place brochures at the airport.
The RIV doesn’t exactly operate like a company, but is rather a co-operative, or consortium of individuals who offer various services, and who are considered to be self-employed.
For instance, community members produce crafts and and items and sell to tourists. “These enterprises put money back into the village to ensure it’s sustainable,” the director said.
What’s more, this alternative tourism product includes visitor interaction with the local community.
The principal tourism product is a “Rastafari experience” targeting the educational, cultural, peaceful eco-tourist,” said McKenzie.
This experience, according to the village member, spans to the outside of the village, where the guests can interact with the communities of Irwin and Portobello.
RIV has since then been endorsed by Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Wykeham McNeill as “a very good community-based tourism project which is poised to bring tremendous benefits to Jamaica”.
Under REDI, new facilities are being introduced in the village and existing infrastructure upgraded. Guides are also being trained.
The contribution of the Rastafari Africa Hall Benevolent Society to the current development was 17 per cent of total project cost, representing largely property value.
The JSIF investment of approximately $18 million was also used to build a craft booth, multi-purpose area to be used for conference meetings and yoga sessions, interactive multi-media museum, signage, and for the marketing material.