I'm living in Kingston at the moment and I can give you some insight into this. It’s a very popular choice for holiday makers all over the world and here in Jamaica is no exception. In fact of the two million people who visit the island annually, more than half opt for all an inclusive stay.
But for places like Jamaica where the majority of hotels are all-inclusive, there is a real concern that some local businesses are being shut out.
Near me there are traders at roadside market in Fern Gully, which is a popular stop off for tourists in Ocho Rios that sell handmade jewelry, wooden carvings and sculptures. I know they feel they’re missing out on potential customers.
They might not sell anything for weeks, and even when a sale comes it might be weeks again for another.
Many here believe the lack of customers is partly due to the fact that tourists simply don’t want to leave the comforts of their all-inclusive resorts. They feel that the tourists are "locked up" in the hotel complexes - but they really might want to see the locals, see them carving, and buying the real stuff. The local traders feel that the big resorts should let the tourists pass by the stores so they get a "slice of the pie", and maintain their livelyhoods.
In some parts of the Caribbean, locals claim that an exaggerated fear of crime plays a big part in keeping tourists inside the resorts.
The realities are there that from time to time there are upsurges in crimes. But crimes against tourists are very low and I think it should not be used as an excuse, as a reason for people not going out. People should be encouraged to go out.
Several hotel chains on the island do have their own tour places where visitors are encouraged to book excursions or day tours. But these are often attractions run by established companies, not the kind of locals I was refering to earlier. Jamaica is trying to diversify its tourism product away from the traditional resorts on the North Coast. And let’s hope that in some way this would help to spread the tourist dollar more equally across the island.
If you want to take a break from the organized excursions and want a way to meet some real Jamaicans there’s a program here that’s called “meet the people”. It’s been around since 1968 and is run by the Jamaican tourist board. You tell them a bit about yourself and they’ll match you up with an accredited person who’s got similar interests.
There is no better way to experience Jamaican culture than through its people.
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