KINGSTON, Jamaica – Culture is one of the main attractions for tourists so the Caribbean tourism industry should do more to market each country’s unique cultural heritage, says CEO of the Jamaica Export Trading Company.
Speaking at the recent Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) in Kingston, Jamaica, Ainsley Henriques, a former chair of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, pronounced: “What I am saying is that the product that we now offer is not the way to growth, to wealth, to self-realization and self-worth for a people; it is not sustainable tourism.”
Henriques urges a shift from marketing hotel rooms, beaches and attractions that can be found in many countries across the world to emphasizing those outstanding cultural aspects that define the people of the region.
Citing tourist destinations in Europe, Henriques, who co-founded Eastern Attractions Limited, an NGO that develops community-based recreational facilities in St. Thomas, Jamaica, pointed out that Europeans promote their culture to attract visitors.
He laments the fact that cultural heritage is being identified but remains practically unknown locally: “We are a proud people with a remarkable history, a legacy from our forebears that is being researched and explored, but not yet transmitted to the majority of us. This is the largely untouched product of depth and interest to our main markets.”
“We have religion, heritage, environment, music [and] culture, which includes art, literature, dance, culinary arts, shopping, sports and water sports. There is so much that we can share with our visitors that we ignore at our peril,” cautioned Henriques, who has organized numerous international conferences in Kingston in the fields of archaeology, Jewish community and
Sustainable tourism, he argues, should be the focus of policies within the industry, while also suggesting that it is important to highlight the growth of enterprises directly or indirectly related to tourism.
Henriques called for attention to a different way of looking at the region’s top industry: “If we can change the dynamic, stop counting bodies that arrive (and) room nights of occupancy, but publish that (revenues from) tourism-related enterprises, attractions, restaurants, tour companies, museums and the like are growing strongly; and especially if these are growing better than the rest of the economy, then we know that we have charted a path to sustainable tourism,” he counseled.