Needed: More diasporic tourismSaturday, April 03, 2021
As we look to recover from the current pandemic and plan for the future we must begin to more seriously look at diasporic tourism for accelerating investments in the country's tourism product.
Indeed, Jamaica's sizeable Diaspora has the potential to be a key driver of growth and diversification. To stimulate diasporic tourism, it will, however, crucially require that we identify creative and innovative strategies to mobilise and leverage the economic power of a group with strong and deep connections to the country.
Diasporic capital markets, in particular, hold significant potential to contribute to national development by mobilising savings and personal wealth for investments locally. With the current uncertainties and anxieties in international tourism, diasporic tourism is now being given more attention as both an alternative and complementary market segment to traditional segments as the country seeks to cope.
From a historical perspective, it is truly the Diaspora that takes Jamaica to the world and the world to Jamaica. Typically, emigrants contribute to their home countries through the “five T” channels: transportation, telecommunications, trade, remittance transfers, and tourism. The potential of Jamaicans living abroad to contribute to sustainable development locally should not be underestimated.
Jamaica's Diaspora is among the largest in the world and is estimated to be in excess of three million people. The United States of America is home to more than half of our Diaspora, with approximately 1.8 million Jamaicans. Jamaican expatriates are largest in the north-east US (an estimated 1.1 million) in states such as Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. The next largest concentration is in the southern United States (an estimated 450,000), mainly in areas such as Miami Metro, Atlanta, Orlando and Tampa, and the least concentration is in other areas including the west and Midwest (an estimated 150,000) with most people living in Los Angeles.
The next largest concentration of the Diaspora globally is the UK. The size of the UK Diaspora is estimated to be 800,000 with most of these people living in London (an estimated 480,000). The UK is followed by Canada, with an estimated 300,000, and the remainder located in numerous countries across the globe with most of these people (about 70 per cent) living in Toronto. There are other locations worldwide with concentrations of Jamaicans. These include: Caricom countries, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Netherland Antilles, some countries in Africa, and Central and South America, in particular Brazil, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. The estimated size of the Diaspora in these other regions is 200,000. Simultaneously, with the growing number of Jamaican migrants around the world, there is a growing interest for them to retain their sense of identity and connection to home.
Diasporas can build bridges between countries of origin and countries of destination, which calls for the design of local and global strategies aiming to harness this potential. The extent of their involvement in national development will be manifested in their potential roles as investors, partners, marketers, innovators, networkers and key collaborators in partnership with the Government of Jamaica (GOJ), private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society.
The indicators suggest that Diaspora members do not return home merely for sun and relaxation, but also to invest and do business, to improve education, to establish a new home, to attend festivals or family events, such as weddings or funerals, and, especially in the case of second and third generations, to find out more about Caribbean heritage and lineage.
As we have already acknowledged, tourism remains one of Jamaica's fastest-growing and most lucrative economic sectors. Investment opportunities abound because of the global popularity of the Jamaican brand of tourism. Our natural resources, our rich heritage and culture, music, entertainment, abundance of medicinal herbs, and the overflow of healing springs and fountains, proves that Jamaica has far more to offer; particularly in health and wellness tourism where we can tap into the natural endowments of our country.
The Diaspora is best positioned to market Brand Jamaica to the four corners of the world. It is recognised that the existence of a large Diaspora population in global markets, with a ready appetite and affinity for Jamaican culture, products and services offers a ready market for Jamaican businesses and entrepreneurs.
We have recognised that the Diaspora community market is a vital and resourceful asset to the development of Jamaica and its members serve as key resources for marketing Brand Jamaica as ambassadors, marketers, and a reliable sales force. Indeed, the Diaspora is a major component of our market, and a major marketer because foreigners are more driven to visit Jamaica by the “word of mouth” and lived experiences of the Jamaicans who they meet, than they are about what is advertised on the television or on digital platforms such as YouTube or social media sites.
Diaspora tourists already have a significant impact on the economy of Jamaica. These travellers constitute a substantial portion of total tourist arrivals. Diaspora visitors are responsible for 11-15 per cent of Jamaica's total annual arrivals. Diasporic tourism can also spur growth in the country's export economy. The Diaspora represents a reliable market for export of Jamaican products. Top agricultural exports to the UK, USA and Canada through the diasporic links include yams, sweet potatoes, papaya, dasheen, pumpkins, mangoes, breadfruit, callaloo, and ackee.
There is a tendency for many to think that Diaspora tourists will always come, that we don't have to market to them, that we don't have to entice them, and that we don't have to plan for them. That is, however, not true, as members of the Diaspora operate in market spaces that are very competitive. Our advantage is that they have identity links to the region. Unless we begin to strategise about this target market, and target them in a more sophisticated way, we may begin to lose this market share.
Edmund Bartlett is the minister of tourism.
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