Japan focuses on Bolt, Trelawny for tourism growth
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in partnership with the Tourism Product Development Company Ltd (TPDCo) is moving to improve the tourism stock of Falmouth, while projecting the life and work of legendary Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt.
With a keen interest in the international tourism industry, and a genuine love for Olympian Usain Bolt, JICA volunteer, Yumeno Tsukamoto chose the Trelawny parish capital as her place to offer her expertise in the field of various development projects, not limited to income generation, tourism awareness, and heritage protection for a two-year duration.
There are various projects which Yumeno, through JICA and in partnership with TPDCo, has been working on.
"Everyone in the world knows that Usain Bolt is a superstar, now we are trying to make a community tour. This tour includes the William Knibb School, that is Usain Bolt’s school. I think a Bolt tour is a good idea," she said.
The Jamaica Observer joined the JICA volunteer and representatives of TPDCo at Falmouth’s Water Square last Wednesday as they set up for ‘Cultural Extravaganza’ — a music and dance show held once a week where local entertainers dance, sing and play steel pan for the arriving cruise ship tourists.
Yumeno exuded happiness as she described what is usually the scene when performances are going on. "I think it’s a very good opportunity to learn about Jamaican culture and music, not only for cruise ship tourists, but also for local people. Sometimes local people are more excited than cruise ship tourists ... they dance with local entertainers."
But she thinks that the locals aren’t able to benefit as much from the cruise ship arrivals. "A lot of big cruise ships stop here, and big tourism companies take tourists to Montego Bay or Ocho Rios, so the local people and local vendors in Falmouth cannot make money. So I want to try to spread more positive impact of tourism," she stated.
Falmouth resident Elie Barrett shared the same view, suggesting that he would want to see more locals involved in the community tours.
Barrett said that "since the inception of the pier, the organiser just pick out certain streets…what they should do is build up places for sightseeing and entertainment.
"When the tourists come here they don’t have nothing to do than to circle and go back on the ship, or just take a bus an’ go to Montego Bay. So that is the problem, the locals not benefiting from any tourism here," Barrett stated.
Yumeno believes in the importance of cultural exchange where people are informed about other cultures as well as their own. "Sometimes I have bad experiences in Falmouth. When I walk the streets other people call me: ‘Hey Chin, hello Miss Chin, Ching, Chang, Chung’, but Asian people are not only Chinese, sometimes Asian people are Korean and, of course, Japanese as well.
"But I know it’s just the Jamaican culture. If we educate students, maybe we can change Jamaican culture of thinking that Asians are only Chinese," Yumeno reasoned.
This is one of the reasons Yumeno embarked upon certain projects such as ‘Falmouth Pride’, where primary schools compete in a quiz competition and the winners are given the opportunity to experience the fascination of Falmouth more, as she described it.
Community Awareness Coordinator at TPDCo, Marline Stephenson Dalley said: "I think a lot of persons don’t understand the linkages that exist in the tourism industry and that is what causes the misconception."
Dalley explained that the people who work in tourism directly are only a small portion of people who benefit from this industry, for instance, persons who braid hair, persons who are drivers, yam cultivators and so on.
Dalley commended the JICA volunteer, saying: "Yumeno has been very helpful in providing assistance in the different areas. She’s working through understanding not only English, but also patois."
Yumeno underscored her love for the Jamaican culture and pledged to take what she has learnt back to her native land.
Asked if she knew any Jamaican words, Yumeno said: "Of course! Wah gwaan? Mi cris," amid laughter.
Raising awareness about heritage and culture is what drives Yumeno to the projects, although she still wishes that she could do more. "My contribution is not so much because it is a two-year project, but little by little I want to contribute to Jamaica’s tourism industry," said Yumeno.