MONTEGO BAY, St James — Former tourism minister Francis Tulloch is beseeching members of the Jamaica Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) to assist craft vendors to make a living from the multi-billion dollar tourism industry.
He suggested that the JUTA drivers who transport tourists take them to craft markets where craft vendors do business in addition to in-bond shops.
"JUTA drivers pick up a lot of independent people and then they take them on tours. They will take them shopping after and end up (only) at the in bond merchants' shops," Tulloch complained.
Tulloch, who was tourism minister between 1997 and 2000, was speaking Saturday night during the JUTA 40th anniversary awards gala dinner held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
He said that during his lifetime, he would like to see the development of craft markets at the cruise shipping piers.
"If I had any power in this country all the shopping would be out on the port. Tourists love to come out and walk around. The craft vendors and all the shopping should be right out there at Freeport, same thing in Ocho Rios, but not enough attention is paid by all governments to people like craft vendors and it hurt me," Tulloch said.
"This doesn't happen in any other country in the Caribbean. If you go to the Bahamas they (craft vendors) are right there at the port so the people walk off the ship straight into the craft market. They don't have to take bus to go there or anything like that. And in most other Caribbean countries it is the same thing," he said.
He lamented that unlike members of JUTA, owners of attractions and red cap porters, craft vendors are yet to reap any significant benefit from the tourism sector.
"Our craft traders are still not making a proper living. I think it is really time now that they get proper craft markets, proper training and advice as to how they can market their goods, and have a variety of things selling instead all of them selling the same thing," the former tourism minister rued. "So really they are not really getting anything out of tourism and that hurts me because I know that in other countries they get a fair share," he added.
Tulloch also told JUTA members, who are said to total more than 3000, that it is important for them to join health and pension plans.