Time to realise the true potential of community tourism -- TPDco headMonday, June 29, 2015
EXECUTIVE Director of the Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo), Dennis Hickey, has urged communities to identify niche products and offerings in their areas and get involved in community-based tourism in order to reap attractive economic gains.
"Notwithstanding the challenges (faced by some, if not all communities) there are many opportunities and communities must recognise the gold mine on which they are sitting. Communities must seek to package and sell what is unique to the area, be it cuisine, trails, ecosystems, an event, culture or heritage," Hickey encouraged.
He was delivering the keynote address at the official launch of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Boot Camp/Workshop for Community Based Tourism Enterprises (CBTEs) at the Sunset Beach Resort and Spa, in Montego Bay, last Thursday.
The boot camp, which ran from June 25 to 28, was organised through the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, in conjunction with JSIF. This collaboration has seen the development of the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), which is responsible for training at the camp.
Hickey said that community tourism is a growing and important phenomenon, and will help members of the community to benefit through improved livelihoods.
"Communities must enlighten themselves, as you are doing here today, and invest in themselves in order to reap the benefits that tourism has to offer. I believe that strength is in unity and community members must come together to realise the potential of their area," Hickey emphasised.
He cited recent research carried out by the Ministry of Tourism, which indicated that the profile of the visitor is changing, as no longer do tourists just want to settle for "sun, sand and sea", but they desire to know about the culture of a destination, the people and to have a real experience.
"With all this in mind, we must be responsive to the needs of the market and not only encourage, but support these entities that can appeal to this new demographic. Government, through the TPDCo, has a special role to play in the development of community tourism ... and will act as facilitators to get you going," the executive director advised.
"We stand ready to give advice on how to develop a viable community business, to recommend marketing strategies, how to generally improve the quality of the product offering as well as to monitor the development and seek improvements with you the operators. TPDCo is also able to facilitate training of staff within your operations to ensure necessary knowledge and skills for excellent service delivery," he added.
Representatives of eight community-based tourism groups are participating in the training camp.
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