With full appreciation to Jamaica and Jamaicans.com for providing me with countless blessings this article is based on a post I wrote originally in May 2002.
I have visited this Jamaican Bulletin board and others for some time and have learned a great deal. I, like so many of you, have been visiting Jamaica for several years now and I’ve stayed at many quality resorts along the way.
However, lately something has happened within me… Over the years I have been noticing the different complaints a lot of tourists have about their vacations. Complaints ranging from the wine not being good enough, to feeling uncomfortable with “locals”.
It would even seem that some folks have come to the point where they will not be entirely satisfied unless they can successfully “recreate” their “own” world that they have come to be familiar with. For some, their vacation has become nothing more than a “relocated” week at home.
More and more the irony of this has become apparent to me.
I’ve been reflecting on my first trip to Jamaica. (Do you remember yours?) Mine was back in 1987.The part that made my journey so special was the PEOPLE.
I was welcomed, I was respected and I returned home after that week, having made friends that I valued so much and happily, still do today. Also I remember how moved I was by the people living in such adverse situations, and I decided then that I wanted to do what I could to help those beautiful people. I also vowed to return to this magical place as often as my financial situation would afford me to.
Then as the years went on, somehow the amount of money I was spending for my accommodations slowly went up as I fell into the pursuit of the “ultimate resort”… Somehow, somewhere along the way the goal changed from helping the people of Jamaica – to living the “good life” myself. Unlike many travelers, I actually live around what is considered to be the poverty line in North America and most in my situation do not afford themselves travel at all. So slowly, as the price tags on the resorts I was booking grew, the money I had to spend outside the resort shrunk. I have tried to appease my guilt by bringing small gifts and things for needy children but I realized that this was almost trivial compared to the thousands of dollars I’d been giving to the millionaire owned resorts! I like so many of us, had convinced myself that I was helping Jamaica, when in reality the fraction of the money we spend in these high cost resorts that actually gets to resort staff is quite insulting!
I’ve read many posts from people complaining about service… I ask any of you- imagine for a moment being on the other side… Every day serving people who make sometimes more money in one hour, than you do in an entire month! Typically, you are working twelve to sixteen hour shifts and being asked to take on much more workload than would be considered “fair” by most standards…etc. Could you honestly smile the way the resort staff almost always do? I understand most of us feel we “deserve” the best for our “HARD EARNED MONEY” but how “hard” earned is it?
Are we as visitors to Jamaica, THAT omni-important that we deserve to be able to literally take over?
We’ve destroyed almost every foot of natural beach/coastline in Jamaica, permanently destroyed reefs and marine life, scared off countless birds, pushed the local people out… and then so many tourists can simply, turn around and complain about their desperate attempts to survive.
I, for one, feel ashamed!
I ask you all to take a long hard look at a certain photograph…
visit the website for the Office of Nature in Negril. There are many beautiful photos but I found one in particular to be especially moving. That of a lonely Rastafarian man sitting on one of a rapidly diminishing number of undeveloped pieces of beach in Jamaica, raising his hand in salute to the setting sun. If you can say this image doesn’t move you at all, then maybe I’m wrong.
I’m not suggesting that we all abandon our search for vacation value. I’m not suggesting that those who chose to spend their vacation in an all inclusive style resort should not be. I completely understand that everyone has differing tastes and some even feel they “need” to have 5 star luxury to enjoy themselves… o.k… but it has gotten to the point where some are spending as much as 1000$ US per night! (Do you have any idea how far 1000$US would go for the family of that Jamaican woman who is serving you your dinner?
Maybe we should take a step back and ask ourselves
“Do I really want to be that selfish?”
Imagine if we all took a fraction of what we spend at the resort and gave it directly to the people of Jamaica! Be it from a three-week stay in a “Royal Suite” to a weekend stay at a “no-star” resort those “fractions” would definitely add up quickly! I for one, from now on, will spend less on accommodations in whatever way I can, to be able to give more to the poor people of Jamaica and to spend more money “outside” the “walls” of the resort. I hope some of you might do the same.
Respect and Blessings to you all, and God bless JAMAICA.