Despite the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) having taken a toll on tourism dependent businesses, craft traders in the island’s resort towns remain optimistic that better days are ahead.
The traders, who operate in craft shops in Negril, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Falmouth, Port Antonio and Kingston, say they are hoping that the latter part of 2020, going into 2021 will be a lot kinder to the tourism sector, which could do with much needed reprieve.
President of the All-Island Craft Traders and Producers Association, Melody Haughton told Government news agency JIS that while it has been a difficult period “we have to remain optimistic.”
Haughton, who is also the President of the Harbour Street Craft Market in Montego Bay, said it is hoped that there will be a reduction in the number of cases, “so we can once again see the cruise ships coming and also see a major rise in stopover arrivals”.
“There’s every indication the ships will be back by yearend going into 2021 and also that the winter tourist season which starts in December should see the sector doing much better than its doing now in terms of stopover visitors,” she stated.
Haughton, however noted that the craft traders have not been sitting idly by, but have been exploring ways to diversify their product offerings.
“Our aim is to be self-reliant. We are well advanced in talks with the LASCO Foundation regarding giving us products at a cost where we can turn it and make a profit. We are very optimistic that some good and exciting things can happen for craft traders resulting from these talks,” she informed.
The All-Island President also revealed that some craft traders have been doing other things in the interim, including farming and chicken rearing, to make ends meet.
“We know it will not be an overnight thing for tourism, so we encourage our traders to do some outside of the box thinking…find some opportunities in other areas until things return,” Ms. Haughton added.
Meanwhile, President of the Ocho Rios Craft Vendors Association, Devon Mitchell said the recent launch of the National Craft Policy to further amplify brand Jamaica in the international space, is a step in the right direction.
Mitchell opined that Jamaica’s craft sector has never fully realized its true potential, adding that a national policy “might be exactly what has been missing all along.”
“We have never had that…where the sector has been treated with the seriousness that it deserves. We are very happy that at long last the powers that be have recognized that this approach is necessary and for that we are grateful,” Mitchell said.
The National Craft Policy, developed in partnership with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), aims to streamline the Jamaican craft industry by facilitating improvements in quality, variety, value, sales, customer satisfaction and profits.
It will promote greater local identity of finished craft and souvenirs, innovation, better supply capability, packaging, regulation and production and distribution facilities.