Frankly I have always felt that it is essential for so many reasons to involve all sectors of the economy, large and small, in the business of tourism. In an interesting experiment the Tourism Foundation, 100 market traders at the Montego Bay Harbour Street Craft Market, have received business training and guidance on what types of products visitors are looking for__how to approach tourists effectively, how to improve sales techniques plus tips on running a profitable business. At the same time tour operators are being asked to encourage customers to visit the market in order to boost income for local traders.
The Tourism Foundation was founded in 2003 as a UK registered independent charity. According to its website, its mission statement and objectives are to support destination stakeholders – including tour operators from the relevant source markets, destination stakeholders, local tourism businesses and local communities – to develop and deliver a programme of activities that optimizes the overall benefits of tourism.
The initiative is part of a wider plan by the Travel Foundation to improve the impacts of tourism in the area and it will be rolled out to other tourism resorts across Jamaica in the future. Training is being carried out by a local association, the Tourism Product Development Company Ltd (TPDCo).
In the words of the Travel Foundation’s Head of Sustainable Practice, Julie Middleton, ‘we’re continuing to work with market traders, the Parish Council, TPDCo and others to ensure that the market offers a vibrant and enjoyable experience for tourists and to support local traders’. Adding ‘we also need to ensure that tourists know about the craft market and what it has to offer, so we are asking tour operators to include it in their excursions and to promote it’. Also part of the initiative has been to develop a walking map of Montego Bay and an insider guide to the area, highlighting local attractions.
Could this be a model to redress the concerns and frequently aired woes of our own Pelican Village Craft Centre?
Perhaps spearheaded by the dynamic Chief Executive Officer of the recently formed Barbados Tourism Product Authority!
It appears that we have all the existing parts and expertise and maybe it’s just the co-ordination that is needed.
While the larger companies continue to down size, right size or consolidate, it must be obvious, even to the less enlightened, that it will be our smaller businesses and enterprises who will significantly soak up unemployment and create new financial opportunities.
Increased visitor interaction with our traders and craft people is also a great way to build our destination awareness and helps to spread the economic benefits generated by tourism more equally throughout society.
My own thoughts would be to develop a passport like map, which embraces Bridgetown offering an incentive, like a 10 per cent discount on presentation with participating partners, which could then be easily monitored for cost-effectiveness and the implementation expenses fairly shared across the ultimate beneficiaries. The ‘document’ could either be accessed online or distributed through strategic locations like the Barbados Tourism office located in the port.