Marijuana tourism on the rebound
The global marijuana tourism industry is valued at US$17 billion.

As tourism starts to rebound, stakeholders are recognising an uptick in the amount of visitors coming to the region for marijuana tourism.

Marijuana tourism refers to travel or tourism related to marijuana or incorporating marijuana use.

Examples of marijuana tourism include: farm tours, “bud and breakfast” hotels, city tours, marijuana festivals, marijuana trails, food, wine and marijuana pairings, “ganja yoga”, and packages that combine accommodation and marijuana experiences.

Some of these travel experiences may also be listed as wellness tourism activities.

The travel trend continues the momentum which started before the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which saw various countries in the region relaxing rules on marijuana usage, particularly for medicinal use.

In recent times, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines approved medical marijuana cultivation. But even before that, countries like Jamaica, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, and the US Virgin Islands approved or enacted legislation to decriminalsze the use of small amounts of marijuana.

This move reinvigorated many tourists who were looking for a new kind of travel experience.

But even as individual governments make strides in loosening the straps around marijuana usage, the regional community remains highly sceptical.

Speaking at a state of the industry conference held in the US Virgin Islands, secretary general at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley said: “We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist and the rest of the world isn’t talking about it. At the end of the day we have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the people of the Caribbean,” he said, adding “It is entirely up to destinations within and outside of the Caribbean to determine whether they want to use marijuana as a magnet to draw tourists. It is a factor: we have to discuss it, and we are going to study it further.”

Notwithstanding, former agriculture minister in Jamaica Floyd Green, while speaking at the opening of a marijuana dispensary, said, “The fact that Jamaica is already a world-renowned hospitality and tourism destination is a guaranteed formula for a successful cannabis industry.”

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Council, which is a trade and investment membership organisation, highlighted in a document that “the issue of ganja tourism whether for medicinal purposes or personal enjoyment will remain controversial as its use raises many other questions that the authorities in the region’s tourism feeder markets also have to consider. These range from accidental possession by a returning visitor to the confused message that consumption is alright but production remains illegal because of its links to major organised crime networks, and its use to fund criminal or terrorist acts.”

Travel agency Kayak conducted a study which revealed that almost 33 per cent of American travellers who are 21 years of age and older wanted to visit a marijuana dispensary while travelling.

Similarly, nearly 25 per cent of respondents ages 21-34 have already travelled to a destination because marijuana was legal or decriminalised.

At the same time, a recent Forbes article noted that the global marijuana tourism industry is valued at US$17 billion.

Tourism Reviews News reported recently, “According to the World Wellness Institute, wellness tourists spend around 50 per cent more than the average international tourist; and 178 per cent more than the typical domestic tourist. By the end of 2022, the market is projected to reach around US$ 919 billion. This represents 18 per cent of the global tourism market.”

BY ANDREW LAIDLEY Senior business reporter laidleya@jamaicaobserver.com

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