They used to harass tourists, now they're trained tour guides

They used to harass tourists, now they're trained tour guides

Observer staff reporter

Sunday, December 16, 2018

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The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) reports that there has been a reduction in the level of visitor harassment at the Falmouth port in Trelawny following the implementation of a social intervention programme which has sought to reform harassers and include them in the official operations at the port.

“We are most proud of our intervention in Falmouth. We had individuals in Falmouth who were harassers, and once people left the gates of the port, these individuals would be a serious concern for us. So we had two options — we either chase them through alleys, or we help them to become a part of the formal system; and that is the option we chose,”said TPDCo Executive Director Dr Andrew Spencer.

This intervention, he said, has reaped the desired effect, as the individuals are now official tour guides.

“Initially, we wanted 20, but we ended up with 10 tour guides. We give them a salary as well, but the idea is that it stops them from haggling as much as they used to. We can't claim that we have eliminated or eradicated [the problem], but we have certainly reduced the harassment,” Spencer said.

“We took these tour guides and we decided firstly that something had to be done for them to be more presentable. We gave them dental work, medicals; we trained them, and after, we certified them. They had a graduation ceremony where they invited their families, and when we were done with that, we gave them a uniform and a sign that says 'Ask Me',” he said.

Spencer further explained that the 'Ask Me' programme has also improved the operations at the arrival points along the port.

“The reviews we are getting about what has happened in Falmouth as a result of this are that it has transformed that gate space,” Spencer said.

Destination manager for Falmouth, Straiton Baker stressed that the programme has not only improved the operations at the port but the lives of the reformed harassers have been transformed.

“We have seen where the lives of these men and woman have changed drastically over the period. We are into our second year now and we have seen success. In fact, when you hear some of the stories that they tell now it is a pleasant surprise to know that a simple programme like this could have transformed their lives this much,” Baker said.

This was the consensus among the tour guides with whom the Jamaica Observer spoke on Thursday,

Marcello Minto said he cherishes his formal occupation, because he can take better care of his family.

“We were in the streets doing nothing, and they told us that we were harassing the tourists, but since TPDCo have us here doing this it's been a change for us. I have two girls and one boy going to school, and since I have got this job it is better for me to send them to school, because first time I could not send them to school every day,” Minto said.

The father of three, has the name 'King of the City' written boldly on his 'Ask Me' sign, said that he takes pleasure in his job.

“When the tourists come off the port, we are the ones to exceed their expectations and make sure they get wonderful hospitality in Jamaica. We born and raise here, so we know all the infrastructure, we know the best spots where they can go and relax, and TPDCo make sure they give us our little pay every month, and we are sure of it, so it's a pleasure for us. They make us be a man now, so we love this job,” he said.

Another tour guide, Delleon Wilmot, described the programme as the best thing that ever happened in his life.

“The TPDCo programme helped us out a lot, because we used to be out here running from the cops. They wanted to get us out of the streets. But they came up with the better idea of making us the ones to be around the guests. We know around here; we are from the town and we know where to take the guests and make sure that they are safe. This is like the best thing that ever happen to me in my whole life, because TPDCo trained us and give us certificates,” Wilmot said.

Paul Davie, another tour guide said, “We were guys just hanging out in the streets, trying to make a difference. I have been loving it because it has definitely been making a difference in my life personally, and in other lives around me. You can see the impact and the changes that it is having on the community.”

His colleague Paul Randall described it as a positive change.

“Tourists used to get harassed and now they stop getting harassed. Everything went down to zero tolerance where tourists didn't even want to walk out here because they were getting harassed. Now, they put us in uniforms, they trained us. It's beautiful for the community; it's helping a lot of people. I didn't even know some of the history about my own town, but I know now,” Randall said.

Overall, Blake said that these days the arrival gates at the Falmouth port in Trelawny are hassle-free. He explained that local shops and craft vendors are also benefiting from the programme.

“They walk the tourists, take them to see the local vendors, they take them to the local shops, so the local economy is actually benefiting more, which is what we want. Their tour also ends up in the craft market so that the vendors can make some money as well, and that is what has been happening. So we are seeing where tourism is benefiting the town,” Baker said.

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