ST JAMES, Jamaica — Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, led a team from the Organization of American States (OAS) on a tour of the Bunkers Hill Cultural Xperience and River Tours, Wakefield, Trelawny on Thursday, July 21.
The OAS team was on the island for a two-day high-level policy forum from July 20 to July 21, with representatives from more than 50 countries across the Americas.
The forum featured plenary discussions on challenges for Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) in the Caribbean on their Post-Disaster Business Continuity; and Crisis Communication Strategy and Procedural Guide for SMTEs.
During the visit to the attraction, the OAS team interacted with O’Brian Gordon, operator of the privately owned entity, and his staff and enjoyed meals cooked the traditional way over a slow wood fire.
The team also ventured on a hike through the lush rainforest, where they were educated about the historic practices of the Tainos, Maroons, and Jamaica’s local heritage.
Bartlett said the visit was aimed at exposing members of the OAS to the unique tourist attraction concealed in the heart of the Cockpit Country, and to demonstrate how micro, small and medium-sized tourism enterprises are immersed in the tourism value chain.
“We're excited to have taken the team OAS here to see this because among very precious, natural attractions of the region, this one stands out and we find an opportunity always to show how the ordinary … people of Jamaica are inserted in the tourism value chain.
“What the Gordons have here is a small enterprise, but what this provides is a consistent flow of resources to take care of their families and to also improve their own economic status,” he said.
Noting that 80 per cent of the experiences of tourism is owned and driven by Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Minister Bartlett said the ministry continues to establish strategic policies, programmes, and initiatives to build the capacity of small and medium-sized players in the sector.
“We wanted to show to our partners from the rest of the region how critical it is for us to invest in the small and medium enterprises. So, we have to build the capacity and train and finance and market to enable them to get the return from tourism.”
Minister of Tourism for Grenada, Lennox John Andrews, who was part of the OAS team, said he enjoyed the cultural experience, which reminded him of the geographic and cultural similarities that exist across Caribbean states.
He added that he left the tour with a wealth of knowledge about slavery in Jamaica and the rich history of the Maroons.
“It’s the first opportunity I would have had to walk through the rainforest and get a similar feeling as to what I am accustomed to in Grenada, because I was born and raised in the countryside. So I feel very much at home. It has been enjoyable, and it has been fun and I have fond memories to tell,” he said.