THE 60 entities that have signed on to participate in this year's 'Experience Jamaica Campaign' should be commended. So, too, should the Ministry of Tourism, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) for organising the promotion, which was first staged in 2009.
Essentially, the campaign uses the lure of big discounts on attractions, accommodations, transport and shopping to have Jamaicans experience the island's tourism product.
The value of this promotion rests in the exposure of our leisure industry to Jamaicans living here; many of whom would not normally think of vacationing at home.
It also facilitates a sharing of cultures between more Jamaicans and visitors from overseas, which is one of the positive benefits of tourism.
True, some of that kind of cultural exchange will take place when Jamaicans visiting popular attractions for a day encounter visitors. However, the experience is enriched when both sides get a chance to interact over a few consecutive days, especially if they are staying at the same hotels or villas.
Although tourism destinations across the world place great focus on increasing international travel, many countries, especially those with large populations and great land mass, put a lot of effort into developing their domestic tourism market.
For instance, on a normal day at the Great Wall of China or in Tiananmen Square it is not uncommon to see more locals than foreign visitors. The same can be said for Checkpoint Charlie or the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany.
There is no good reason why that kind of local enthusiasm should not be the experience of the world-class attractions and hotels that we have in Jamaica.
After all, millions of overseas visitors come here each year to enjoy what we have to offer. But, as the tourism minister, Mr Wykeham McNeill, said on Tuesday at the launch of the Experience Jamaica Campaign, while some Jamaicans “may go to one or two attractions like Dunn’s River Falls, not enough go to hotels, villas or the myriad other attractions”.
Indeed, there is no shortage of these types of attractions that Jamaicans can enjoy. Some that come to mind easily include the Green Grotto Caves in St Ann, the Bath Fountain and Spa in St Thomas, the storied Port Royal, and the Rio Minho Mineral Bath in Clarendon, to name a few.
While we recognise that many Jamaicans are feeling the effects of the economic plight affecting the country, we still hope that as many of us as possible will be able to take up the offers being extended under this promotion.
We note that the discounts are as much as 50 per cent, a reward — Minister McNeill tells us — for 50 years of nation-building.
It is a most appropriate and gracious gesture that gives truth to Tourism Director John Lynch's declaration that the discounts highlight just how eager the hospitality sector is to show Jamaicans a good time.