Community Tourism presents Jamaica with a major opportunity to advance the goal of an inclusive tourism sector, simultaneously in alignment with international tourism trends showing a shift from traditional Sun & Sea Tourism toward Interactive, Experiential Tourism.
Our Mission at the Rasta Routes Project is to help Jamaica achieve a favorable competitive advantage in this exploding new Experiential Tourism sub-market. Jamaica’s plethora of exciting & distinctive natural, heritage & cultural elements are tailor-made to not only service and but to dominate the Experiential Tourism sub market, provided we can bring all the individuals of our organization – Jamaica – into alignment for Strategy Implementation.
Our diverse array of interesting & distinctive cultural features offer a combination of very promising conditions on which to grow a vibrant Community Tourism sector featuring something unique compared to other competitors – once our constraints, gaps & capacity issues are bypassed, eliminated – or embraced…
Success in Market Differentiation requires a focus on aspects that customers appreciate & appeal specifically to their wants & needs that they are willing to pay a premium for, or help tip the scales in our advantage against similarly priced, non-differentiated competitors.
As the case with most opportunities of significance, the most promising aspects are also where complications are to be found. Jamaica’s immediate challenge will be to decide if we will have one Tourism Industry or two.
Although there is much promise, the current situation is that although 100% of Jamaican Establishments are prepared to service the International Customers that want to Experience for themselves what Local Jamaicans experience, we seem to be self-consciously re-presenting Jamaican Culture into something we think would be more internationally palatable in our traditional tourism markets.
We are going to have to decide if we are going to turn the entire island into a resort with interpreted activities & pre-planned itineraries, or if we are going to pursue & facilitate the ability of Foreigners (and Locals) to Safely Traverse & Explore the Country as it naturally exists.
In the same way that Cousin Joe’s new wife from Canada can appreciate & enjoy the National Pantomime without understanding patois, much less the cultural references or jokes – so too will the Experiential Tourist Couple from Prague.
Selling Experiential Excursions to Customers who came for Lounge Chairs & Umbrella Drinks is what happens when We try to Market a Product that we don’t fully embrace ourselves.
No one in Vietnam is interpreting the Dog-Meat Sandwiches in Shop Windows for visitors to Ho Chi Min City.
Either you buy a sandwich & eat it or you don’t.
No mandatory or self-imposed standards were necessary – considering that the few signs listing the meat as canine aren’t even in English. The tourism customer paid to experience authentic Vietnamese culture & their providers delivered an authentic product safely.
End of story.
It would seem that we are taking the trouble of expanding Jamaica’s Tourism product line, only to try selling the new products in existing markets which have not previously shown significant demand for cultural interaction.
Yes, the International trends about Experiential Tourism’s growth are correct, but that explosive growth is not to be found within Jamaica’s existing Tourism customer base.
How Many Resort Guests are going to pay money to get on a bus to go watch “natives” Limbo-dance an interpreted activity at an off-site location, when they can watch Limbo dancing right there at the Resort???
Are we trying to simply put a “Community Tourism” label on a slightly modified product to sell to old customers, or are we going to deliver the Authenticity that this new market actually desires?
Reggae & Dancehall are Hits in Japan yet no-one is there to interpret the songs for them or ensure that lyrics meet international standards.Here we see a market seeking what it wants & consuming it in it’s own way, even without understanding English – much less Patois.
This is also the nature of our Community Tourism market yet the Last Words a traditional Resort Guest probably wants to hear are Activity & Excursion – worse yet, in the same sentence too…
Marketing Focus Strategy rests on the assumption that there can be a narrow competitive scope within an industry.
What Jamaica needs to properly penetrate & capitalize on this separate Experiential Tourism market with our new Community Tourism Product is Authenticity, and possibly two Tourism industries to serve each Tourism sector properly.
Our Nation will have to select a market segment or Group of segments in the Tourism industry & tailor our strategy for each to serve its own market to the exclusion of others.
By optimizing our strategies for the target segments, Jamaica will seek to achieve competitive advantage in one or both targeted segments, even though we do not posses competitive advantage in the overall Travel Industry.
Due to the heavy overlap between Backpacker Tourism & Experiential Travel, existing new markets already-ready for Jamaica Community Tourism products expect a Value-Conscious format that enables longer, more immersive trips.
To fully penetrate this mixed Community Tourism market, Rasta Routes believes that Jamaica will probably need to employ both Cost Focused & Differentiation Focused Marketing Campaigns simultaneously – something discouraged by marketing theory & textbooks.
In light of this, and the segmented & opposing nature of the dual Tourism markets Jamaica will now seriously compete it, we propose two externally separate industries (internally unified) – or at a minimum, two distinct & separate national marketing programs.
One traditional tourism industry, plus the “Other Jamaica” – each with its own market segment & marketing strategies.
We find this necessary to prevent saturating the Traditional Resort marketplace with ads to Save Money Sleeping in Someone’s Spare Room, as well as to avoid confusing or discouraging the Backpacker/Experiential/Long-Term Travel market with offers for Interpreted Activities & Pre-Planned Itineraries to an “Authentic Rasta Village” that is only open 4 days a week…
Backpackers & Experiential Tourist both want and need the same products and services that you & I do.
They want to go where Locals go, do what Locals do & eat what locals eat. If the average Jamaican eats a Patty and Coco Bread for Lunch twice a week, so too will the Visiting Backpacker or even more so, as they don’t have Coco-bread back in their own Country.
Lounge Chairs & Umbrella Drinks don’t appeal to value-conscious Experiential Travelers that want to Experience Everything Authentic about the Visited Culture for as long as financially possible.
Long-Term Travelers need to figure out transportation and lodging for a month or two, get a local phone number & minutes, find a grocery store plus an affordable restaurant for when they don’t feel like cooking, locate safe affordable entertainment & even resolve mundane matters like sourcing a decent Barber or Hairdresser.
The questions we need to ask are more along the line of “How can we safely facilitate Backpackers & Cultural Immersion Travelers at Passa-Passa, Rebel Salute & eventually, Ms. Ivy’s Corner Bar”?
Granted, you & I probably will not individually live long enough to see the Evening when an obviously foreign Caucasian couple can debark a Public Bus in Downtown Parade to Stroll the Kingston Waterfront & Gaze at Stars in safety, but like Travel itself, every journey starts with a single step & each one takes us closer to our collective national goal of economically viable inclusion!
By Winston Irie