Director of the Tourism Linkages Network, Carolyn McDonald-Riley, has emphasised the importance of the five networks in further diversifying the country’s tourism offerings and creating business opportunities among various sectors.
The five networks – Gastronomy, Sports and Entertainment, Health and Wellness, Shopping, and the Knowledge economy – which were officially launched in December 2016 as part of the Tourism Linkages Network initiative, will help to better position the sector to generate higher growth rates in both visitor arrivals and earnings.
These networks, the Director added, have been strengthening the linkages with the manufacturing and agricultural sectors as well as the creative industries.
“It is about using food as a greater attraction; focusing on our spas to increase our tourism offerings; positioning Jamaica to become the knowledge Mecca and having more people come in to shop and attend our sports and general events,” Mrs. McDonald-Riley said.
In terms of Gastronomy, the Director explained that this particular network “is dedicated to programmes looking at food and how we bring our food more ‘into the face of the visitor’.”
To further promote and sell local culinary delights to the world, she added that the Gastronomy network has also launched its Taste Jamaica Mobile App and Micro-Site, covering the best of Jamaican cuisine.
“People are excited about tasting dishes, knowing what the food is like, and so, if you download this app, you are able to see a number of the food establishments in Jamaica where people are eating, information on food festivals and just anything regarding food in Jamaica,” McDonald-Riley outlined.
She said the introduction of these platforms allows for statistics to be shared on the number of persons hitting the site; the demographics of people eating out, what it is they are eating and their preference in terms of quick dining or restaurant setting.
In March 2018, the Tourism Linkages Network hosted the inaugural staging of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival at Newcastle in St. Andrew, as part of initiatives to foster the strategic growth of culinary tourism in Jamaica.
The three-day event showcased the rich tradition of coffee production in the Blue Mountain region and featured Blue Mountain coffee, coffee-related products, food stalls, tastings, demonstrations and workshops.
The festival was aimed at attracting locals and tourists to the Blue Mountains; leveraging the high quality and uniqueness of Blue Mountain coffee and the Blue Mountain experience, and promoting the export of coffee and coffee-related products.
Turning to shopping, the plan is to encourage investments for big shopping malls that can attract and maintain the attention of visitors.
So far, the Linkages Network has been hosting events for local producers and designers to showcase and sell their work.
The most recent event took place in December 2018 when The Shoppes at Rose Hall in Montego Bay was transformed into a wonderland of fashion, food and entertainment for the Tourism Linkages Network’s ‘Style Jamaica’.
The two-day event (December 12 and 13), showcased the creations of 12 local designers to tourists from hotels in the vicinity, cruise-ship passengers and locals who are interested in purchasing authentic Jamaican items.
“If you think of Jamaica, you probably would not think shopping first, but we do have it; we just need the outlets, so this is a start to the development of shopping in a very serious way in Jamaica,” McDonald-Riley said.
For sports and entertainment, the Director noted that the Government is partnering with carnival stakeholders to market Jamaica as an entertainment destination.
This endeavour, dubbed ‘Carnival in Jamaica’, aims to enhance brand Jamaica while further boosting the global appeal of carnival, and is being done through collaborations involving several ministries, investors, developers and organisers of the event.
“In addition to using this initiative to promote Jamaica as an entertainment destination, we are also capitalising on the business opportunities that this presents, by making costumes here; importing the feathers; training additional bartenders for the carnival period; and getting more people to do makeup, as this is a service which is in high demand at that period. So, it is all about bringing an awareness to persons about the potential business ventures,” Mrs. McDonald-Riley pointed out.
On the matter of Health & Wellness, she noted that the Network has been working with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) to sensitise spa operators of the standards and requirements.
“In terms of the Knowledge network, a number of persons travel for knowledge, people travel for short courses and conferences, so we are encouraging more of these events and businesses, and once you get these persons here for knowledge, you can also get them back as tourists,” the Director reasoned.