‘Unclench the fist of crime’
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Executive director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), Dr Carey Wallace has urged Jamaicans to look at the opportunities that now present themselves in the tourism sector.
However, according to Wallace, individuals can only take advantage of these opportunities — especially in community tourism — if they work to rid the country of the scourge of crime.
“If Jamaica unclenches the fist of crime, we can fill your hands with tourism dollars but you have to make your communities clean, you have to make your communities peaceful, you have to make your communities customer-friendly,” he urged.
Wallace was speaking at the Christmas tree lighting in Montego Bay on Sunday night.
“I want to charge you to do more than us just turning on a Christmas tree tonight because Jamaica has so much opportunity for us to create that sustained place of hope, that sustained place of opportunity, a sustained place where it is peaceful, where it is joyful and where we are all living a good quality of life,” he added.
He cited a recent report has showed that Jamaica is safe for visitors as a potential source of inspiration.
“Jamaica just ranked as one of the safest destinations in the world and that made everybody surprised. How can we have such a high crime rate but we are perceived as one of the safest places in the world? It’s because the crime is among each other but to visitors and anybody visiting, it is very low — like anybody anywhere else. So why can’t we make it low with each other?” he asked.
Wallace maintained that there are many opportunities opening up in the tourism sector and urged individuals to take advantage of them.
“I sit in the Ministry of Tourism and I see all the opportunities flooding towards Jamaica from a tourism perspective, not just for tourism on the north coast with some big hotels and so on, but a tourism that’s spreading into all of Jamaica,” he stated.
Part of the opportunities, he highlighted, is in the continued growth in the area of short-term accommodations in homes and smaller properties in various areas across the country.
“Airbnb has opened up many doors for persons to stay in communities across Jamaica. Last year alone 29 per cent of all tourism arrivals were in non-hotel accommodations — meaning Airbnbs and villas and so on — and that is growing,” he revealed.
“The tourism dollar is spreading right into the nooks and crannies of Jamaica,” he added.
The country is set to welcome just over a million tourists during the ongoing winter season with just over four million set to come within this calendar year.
“Technology now is allowing all of Jamaica to become a tourism destination; that means tourism dollars getting into all of Jamaicans hands,” said Wallace. “Everybody has a mobile phone in their hands, you are taking pictures, you’re posting on social media, that is getting to the world, to the market.”
With these changes, he explained, the high costs associated with marketing are no longer a hurdle.
“Before 10 years ago, it would be impossible to get to the market like that. You would have to go through JTB, you have to go through some big expensive advertisements to get there. Now every single one of us can share the gems of Jamaica, the rivers, the waterfalls, the sunshine, the beauty, the culinary delights, we can make that difference,” he said.
He urged residents gathered for the tree lighting ceremony to consider the benefits to be gained from a peaceful Jamaica.
“That’s the opportunity we have in front of us, a peaceful Jamaica I promise you will be a prosperous Jamaica,” he added.