Columns

I have a dream... an urban green tourism dream for downtown

Gaunette MARAGH

Monday, April 28, 2014    

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In hailing the work of the late Honourable Maurice Facey and his passion for the development of downtown Kingston, I share his enthusiasm in a dream. This dream is also timely amidst the various dialogues regarding this issue.

I have a dream "that one day Downtown Kingston (destination brand name for the area) will epitomise the concept of 'urban green tourism', which will facilitate travel and exploration within and around this city and simultaneously promote environmental sustainability; support local economic and community development; and showcase the local heritage and arts". Green Tourism in an urban setting has been ably demonstrated in places such as Victoria and Sudbury in Canada, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. In fact, Urban Green Tourism can achieve the four goals established by the United Nation World Tourism Organisation. These are environmental responsibility; local economic vitality; cultural sensitivity; and experiential richness.

In my dream, "the physical environment of Downtown Kingston, inclusive of the infrastructure, was vastly improved, and this encouraged and facilitated visual perceptions for both residents and visitors. The heritage value of the buildings and architecture were also restored; walkways were constructed and boasted vast varieties of flora which beautified the boulevard; green spaces and mini-parks were accessible to all; the craft market showcased the best of Jamaica's novelties; an aquatic/marine park was constructed; visitors gleefully disembarked from the cruise ships; mini cultural cinemas were fully attended; and visitors, shoppers and residents alike could be seen sitting outdoors the eateries on the corridors, enjoying the delectable Jamaican menu offerings".

Now that I am fully awake, I would love for this dream to come true. Downtown Kingston, with its rich historical background and impeccable physical layout, seems poised for such development. However, upon in-depth reflection of my dream and the realities of our political, economic, social, cultural and demographic issues, I have come to the realisation that my dream is not realistic in the short term and calls for political will. However, with great expectations, I am beckoning to the planners to ensure that the development of downtown Kingston is done within the framework of sustainable development. We need to avoid any ad hoc development plan for the renovation and transformation of this important capital city. It should be done in such a way so as to benefit the future generation. Hence, there has to be developmental stages, which may go beyond the duration or tenure of any political regime and can even take decades.

The renovation and rebranding of the Coronation Market and the construction of the West Lane transport centre are major steps toward the realiSation of Urban Green Tourism for downtown Kingston. This concept is actually a form of 'Special Interest Tourism', and this could be creatively used to market the other sites designated as part of the heritage trail in the metropolitan area of Kingston. It could facilitate linkages with other places of interest to include the Kingston Harbour being the seventh largest in the world; Port Royal ... "the Caribbean Pompeli"; the historic district of Spanish Town; and the wonders of the Three Sisters Cave in Hellshire, to name a few. This linkage idea is not new as it was conceptualised many years ago by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust as the "The Golden Triangle".

The concept of Urban Green Tourism could help to sustain the local economies of Kingston, its surrounding communities, and Jamaica as a whole, through job creation/employment opportunities, foreign exchange earnings, and economic linkages and opportunities. The standard of living for residents in and around Kingston would also be improved. This can, however, only be made possible through proper planning and execution. I do hope this dream will provide some framework for the powers that be, and be incorporated into the vision for the sustainable development of downtown Kingston to fulfill the desire of the Honourable Maurice Facey.

Gaunette Sinclair-Maragh is a senior lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, who specialises in tourism sociology, hospitality management and marketing, international business management, citizenry welfare and socio-economic development issues. gaunsmar@yahoo.com

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