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Faith-Based Tourism In Jamaica

Jamaica explores possibilities of faith-based tourism

Oct 11, 2009

White sand beaches, reggae music and images of Bob Marley have long been selling points for Jamaica as a tourist destination. But over the past few years, the Tourism Ministry has been trying to sell the island as the ideal location for Christian-based travel and events.

Last year, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett commissioned a faith-based committee, headed by Reverend Al Miller and Bishop Herro Blair, to examine and explore the possibilities of this form of tourism.

Miller said the faith-based tourism operations committee has been meeting regularly to develop strategies and marketing plans to target other churches in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Canada.

"It's a niche market, and it's a market that we need to plan and prepare for, just as we would any other market," he said. "You have to make the faith-based community be aware of Jamaica as a destination."

Miller said the island is an ideal destination for church retreats, conferences and conventions, as well as family excursions. He pointed to Jamaica's wide range of historical churches that would interest tourist from around the world.

"The community is already here, so we just need to develop the product," he said. "If we really put more effort in doing so, then we have the potential to bring in a lot more money."

Faith-based tourism is projected to bring in an estimated $1.2 billion annually to the island, and with the right amount of marketing, this figure is expected to increase overtime, according to information out of the committee.

Miller noted that more family-based entertainment, which is comfortable for people of faith, should be encouraged at resorts.

Beverly Stewart, who also sits on the committee, agreed. She said the group has been working on developing a series of events slated for next year, which could attract more visitors to the island.

"We have decided that events are the way to go for faith-based tourism. We feel that events bring in a lot of people in a concentrated period; it creates a lot of focus and excitement," she said.

Events such as "Genesis", "Fun in the Son" and the Jamaica Broilers "Best Dressed Chicken 50 Fest" which at its first staging last year attracted more than 200,000 people, should be sold to tourist overseas and not just to the Jamaican public, Stewart noted.

She, along with the four other committee members, have already identified three major events they plan to work on for next year, which they believe has the potential to attract a number of tourist. These include the seven-year-old gospel event "Fun in the Son", a "Kingdom leaders golf conference" to be hosted in Montego Bay next May, and a huge thanksgiving celebration next December, which they hope will draw families from different countries.

In addition, Stewart said there are a number of mission trips that come in each year.

"Most of them will come in as medical teams and they can be as small as (groups of) five and 10 (while others) could (comprise as many) as 250. So you can have small teams of technical experts, engineers, doctors and so on to come in to work on practical projects - and most of them would stay for a week," she said.

Stewart added that most of these individuals usually do a lot of spending, so that by virtue of being here, they are benefiting the Jamaican community.

"These are the ones who would go to Faiths Pen, Little Ochi and they are in every nook and cranny. They are not adverse to leaving gifts with the churches and they bring down thousands of US dollars worth of equipment for churches and schools," she said.

According to Stewart, a number of mission groups from overseas have helped to develop the Jamaican communities by providing their medical expertise and financial assistance.

"They want to know that their church is supporting a local church in a particular development area. They can help in the basic school... with the clinic... with the men's missions and so on," she said.

Stewart added that Jamaica's rising crime rate is not a deterrent to mission groups planning to work in communities on the island.

"The type of things that would terrify the average tourist is not going terrify the mission people. I don't think for them the crime is a deterrent. They go to Haiti, and if they go there then Jamaica won't be a problem," she said.

Jamaica explores possibilities of faith-based tourism
Hundreds turn out to Fun in the Son 2009 / Image via


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