The National Goals established for the Tourism Sector integrate aspirations for an Internationally Competitive Product that is Distinctly Jamaican in an Inclusive Sector that contributes to Economic Development, a Skilled Workforce & a Sustainable Environment.
Like the present National Tourism Sector, the reach of Community Tourism can extend far beyond tourism, generating Increased Community Capacities, Stronger Community Governance, Employment Creation, Poverty Reduction & Gender Empowerment as well as Enhanced Resource Appreciation & Protection.
The Rasta Routes Community Tourism Vision encompasses an invigorated tourism sector in communities that enriches community quality of life through social, cultural, economic & environmental benefits, exemplifies sustainable livelihoods & strengthens Jamaica’s national policy values & interests.
Our Goals for Community Tourism
1. Facilitate an internationally competitive, robust & inclusive Community Tourism sector;
2. Support local communities, appropriate entrepreneurs & NGOs in local communities to develop Authentic, home-grown, sustainable Community Tourism experiences of the highest possible quality available today;
3. Promote Environmentally-friendly Community Tourism that is consistent with & does not compromise resource protection, cultural integrity & community governance; and
4. Support Community Tourism in a manner that technologically creates the conditions to advance national policies & generate social, cultural, economic & environmental benefits for local communities.
A vibrant Community Tourism sector offers many benefits for Jamaica & Jamaicans.
The decision to explore Community Tourism was a defining moment for Jamaica’s tourism sector. Managed Strategically, it leads to the:
- Diversification of Jamaica’s tourism product to include a niche of increasing global demand;
- Provisioning of communities with an opportunity for economic diversification in tourism, a sector that already has a sound marketing & product development infrastructure to assist all participants to offer viable products in a parallel yet separate value-chain;
- Offer communities & individual Mom & Pop Entrepreneurs to directly participate competitively in today’s global Tourism market and provide avenues for diversifying & strengthening personal & parish economies, through business creation & growth opportunities, jobs, & tourism value chain participation; and
- Encourage greater commitment to natural, heritage & cultural protection, consistent with well-established civic pride.
Adding new depth & diversity to the sector by embracing widespread community participation in tourism not only responds to global market trends, but it also offers a vehicle to help achieve national aspirations for strengthening community quality of life through poverty reduction, gender empowerment & equality, improved security & natural, heritage & cultural protection.
Thus the social, economic & cultural benefits of a vibrant Community Tourism sector will serve communities well for this & future generations.
At the local level, Community Tourism can be seen as an incentive for the preservation of culture & heritage; the development & promotion of local attractions, & the fostering of cultural industries such as fashion, fine arts, culinary arts & theater.
It also supports the national thrust to protect Jamaica’s brand image through the diversification of local products in both type & design by way of the creation of Rasta Routes – an Authentic Jamaican brand consistent with & advancing the country’s national tourism interests.
Community Tourism will receive featured positions in Rasta Routes marketing strategies where efforts will be directed specifically toward the 18-34 year old demographic, with a Life is Laughter & Love psychographic profile, in geographic regions permitted visa-free entry into Jamaica for 30 Days or more.
This is because the community tourist has substantially different demographic, psychographic & behavioral characteristics than mass recreational tourism consumers to which Jamaica traditionally caters.
Of additional interest for Marketers to note, is the behavioral shift where the Post-2008 Financial Crisis consumer has moved from a state of anxiety to a state of action – and in some cases open revolt, as in France where the disgruntled are calling for mass bank withdrawals to collapse the “system”.
Consumers, like the very Banks & Too-Big-To-Jail Businesses that started the whole mess – have started to deleverage & unwind themselves from risk & liability.
Five Value Shifts Driving New Consumer Behavior
1. A Shift to Liquidity. Being Frivolous has become unfashionable with a growing trend in low-key tourism like agrotourism – visiting farms & vineyards. Consumers don’t want to be locked into fixed costs or to commit to pre-planned itineraries.
2. A Shift toward Ethics & Fair-Play, Empathy & Respect. Business must provide Values as well as Value. Increased emphasis is now placed on neighborhoods & communities as support systems, with a rise in volunteerism. Our goal in this aspect is to leverage visitor connections with their home community to Jamaican Community Development & encourage “VolunTourism” opportunities here that mutually benefit all involved parties.
3. Character & Professionalism matter again, likewise Personal Accountability, making today’s environment perfect for developing Jamaica’s Side Gig/Sharing Economy. Not only will Tourists be low on cash in their travel purses as the Global Financial Depression worsens and become more noticeable & publicly acknowledged, so too will the average Jamaican become more impoverished, & Community Tourism can hopefully can be our individual and collective Lifelines in the about-to-ensue, man-made Financial Storm of the Century.
4. A Shift to Durable Living – Today’s Consumer is geared for a Marathon rather than a Sprint. For example in the U.S. where consumers are holding on to Cars for longer than average, than ever before, 68% of Americans now hold a Public library card – the highest usage ever in history! Also explosive growth in Do-It-Yourself movement with 30% of homes built by owners getting their hands dirty or raising backyard chickens in order to be sustainable & take care of themselves.
5. A Shift in Consumer Trust (a Return to the Fold) where focus is now about connecting to their communities & social networks. Artisan movements are growing, as well as even ventures like “cow-pooling” where communities group to collectively buy fresh, healthy meat directly from organic farms.
Our Rasta Routes mission in regard to this “anti-Babylon” behavioral opportunity, is to organize, harness & give it meaning – by doing & saying the things Respectable Governments can’t.
It is clear that Community Tourism enterprises & most communities are just as enthusiastic & passionate about participating in Jamaica’s tourism sector as are Legion of Backpackers aching to finally consume a Safe & Authentic Jamaican Tourism product that accurately reflects our Local Daily Life & Experiences.
These Shifts in Buyer Behavior make the prospect of a Value-Conscious Vacation in a Safe & Hospitable Environment that is also Culturally Unique and puts money in the “Little Guy’s Pocket” significantly more appealing to the average Experiential Travel Customer.
Water is wet & sand feels grainy at almost every single beach that they have visited!
It is even more critical & necessary to Jamaica as a nation to offer “Value-Consciousness” as a Tourism Provider & Foreign Exchange earner – especially as the World enters a new era of geopolitical instability.
This all on top of the 2nd Half of the 2008 Financial Crisis – postponed longer than thought possible, but finally coming home to roost like proverbial chickens – but this time the Fowl fly back home riding a hurricane…
Jamaica’s embryonic steps into Cultural Immersion Tourism may actually be a God-send in this fast-approaching time of financial woe, as our new Community Tourism offerings can be the Low-Cost Leaders that attract new Experiential Travelers with a value-conscious mindset.
With luck, & some intentional strategic planning, having dual markets could avoid us having to significantly lower prices or engage in price wars with other 3S competitors in our Primary, Bread-&-Butter (for the moment), Traditional Tourism market, as recessionary fears eat away at travel industry momentum in the short-term.
By Winston Irie