Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Beyond The Beaches & Beautiful People

Jamaica guards its reputation as a tourist paradise—literally. The government of Jamaica takes tourism seriously that they frequently dispatch police and military to make sure nothing bad happens at or near tourist resort towns such as Negril, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.

Meanwhile, throughout the rest of the country, like the villages and capital city Kingston (where most Jamaicans live) practically have become war zones, claiming the lives of residents, police, soldiers, and gang members. More than 1049 people were killed between January and December of 2002. This figure shows a marked decline of 13 % over the record murders of 1100 on the island nation of 2.7 million in 2001.

The Prime Minister P. J. Patterson have instituted curfews in the capital city of Kingston and its suburbs. Troops were sent into the city with wide-ranging powers, saying they will be “a permanent fixture” until peace is completely restored.

Violence has flared up every few weeks in Jamaica for various reasons, which are drug running, robberies, extortion rackets, domestic disputes or public works failure or political garrison feud.

On paper or commercial adverts, Jamaica looks good as a country committing itself as the beckon of hope for existing in tranquil love, peace and unity. The foreign image of Jamaica is provided by tourist brochures as immaculate beaches of white sand spotted with shaded hammocks.

Tourism interests have made it perfectly clear that they are in Jamaica to make money. The public servants, politicians, who are under pressure from the public to perform, are waffling and grovelling to their wishes. The special interest industrialists have sold the idea that they are the engine of growth in Jamaica and the government, out of a need to give the people more opportunities, are signing on to these mechanical directives.

Despite the unity of mammon and political servants, Jamaica today has one of the highest income disparities in the world. Remittances (money sent privately to the island by Jamaicans living abroad) have become an even larger source of income for the country than tourism, its supposedly largest industry.

The stately manors, boutique properties and plantations of the tourism industry overlook shantytowns inflicted with poverty. Billion-dollar resorts attract wealthy foreigners, yet Jamaicans earn, on average, $20 US a week.

I am convinced that tourism as an industry, taking into account the fragile nature, public health, environmental hazards, and strengths as a money earner is a dangerous industry upon which Jamaica should build its future.

With an AIDS outbreak in play, which is increasing more vigorously in resort towns on the north coast than in other towns and villages of the island, Jamaicans have got to make tourism more accountable for the things that it has been doing to weaken, frustrate, and exploit the Jamaican community and ecosystem.

The tourism interests at this point are only looking at their bottom line. Jamaica’s natural resources water, flora and fauna, human resources, people, workers, and its socio-cultural fabric, institutions, music, ethic are hurting from the mass -transit tourism. The tourism opportunists have showed little regard to that concern. I don’t know if they realise that if Jamaica is not able to heal herself, then Jamaica not the industry of tourism alone is going to die. Many of the men and women who market Jamaica as tour operators and who operate hotels on our precious land are behaving carefree to many of the factors affecting Jamaica. That in my own mind shows where their loyalties lie, for simply leave on the next flight to a new destination is always the next best thing on their minds.

Jamaica cannot only be seen as a playground for sunbathers and nightlife for the wild, neither should Jamaicans allow foreigners to see us as a people, community, nation reduced to the pawn of buying and selling.

The people of Jamaica are greater stake holders in this nation than foreigners, visitors or well-wishers of Jamaica. We have experienced a long history of exploitation by industrialist entrepreneurs before and tourism in 2003 is becoming an industry that is bordering upon similar traits as of those nightmarish past.

The tourism industry has already committed grave mistakes since the start of the new millennium. Most ordinary Jamaicans are today so far removed from the ism as it is gradually being seen as a alienating system of suppliers and buyers over everything else. Sacrificing whatever remains of the origins Jamaica as they now begin to further corrupt the minds of the people while dividing us toward their end.

Already we have a carnival flesh pot on show, which is supported by the Jamaica tourist board and sponsored by many corporate hospitality industry brands. Nude weddings, Spring break wet and wild beer parties, and a deliberate campaign by Tourism interests to legalise the gaming Industry in Jamaica is gradually changing the cultural realities of the country. Coral reefs, rivers, endemic plants and nature of all variety are being abused by business interests who want to get their piece of the tourism pie.

Jamaica’s stock of mahogany, oak , pine even mahoe trees are being raped at a faster rate as furniture and cabinet makers muscle to meet the mighty demands of the Tourism trade. This practice has caused mountain sides to be ruined as local villages now feel the hazards of environmental land slippage during moderate to heavy rains.

In the early days of tourism, Jamaicans fully enjoyed the cultural mixing as an experience toward informing and sharing with family and friends the island they call home. The socio-cultural environment at that time never pursued tourism as a mainstay for providing bread on the able of families. Fierce competition against Jamaica’s exports abroad and archaic system of production led to the failure of the sugar industry, banana industry, and dairy industries, among other essential grass roots agribusiness stakeholders. The economic gap in the national budget was filled temporarily with aluminum/bauxite exports, until the 1980’s and 90’s when tourism was welcomed as the saving alternative to help us earn our way out of the socio-cultural conflict.

That conflict continues today because Jamaicans are not relying upon their cultural roots to provide a living for their family. They have been deluded by the idea that people travelling to the island in droves will make everyone happier in feeling alright. Check that against the current reality where most of Jamaica’s security forces are being placed in resort towns to support and protect the image of the tourism product. This while the unemployment rate rise and people complain about having a job rather than taking up their lass to plant the land.

The tourism technocrats have said that Jamaica will only gain sustainable development when she build more tour-ism and yet Jamaica has had less economic growth since the island became dependent on tourism. Subsistence if we are to take the history of the world happens best in a climate where most people are employed in an agrarian ethic, farming the lands to provide food for their community. The nations, communities which have remained healthy in the world have done so because they remain true to their cultural roots. Men and women need to be encouraged to earn their living by the sweat of their brows rather than simply by the shaking of their booty at the club, or by the receipt of tip and gratuity at the hand of foreigners.

Jamaicans have the ability to do wonders while feeding their families from the creative mind and creative ethic of work. The glamour of the Tourism industry is overshadowing that willingness to pursue new dreams. Slavery and the plantation industry once before crippled the mental capacity of our people, let us not be fooled by that which glitters and appears to be gold. We all need to understand the strengths of this attractive industry while resisting the weaknesses of its unhealthy wild side. We need to prepare Jamaicans for a brighter future vested in working in the soil. Hardship there are but the land is green and the sun shineth.

I just want to say that I honestly find it appalling that the tourism capital of Jamaica now faces an aggressive AIDS rate. Yet, neither the Jamaica tourist board nor the Jamaican Tourism brands, linkage industries have sort to join the fight against the pandemic which is shedding blood unto our local soil.

The lifeline of tourism involves the people of Jamaica. They are the ones with the help of God that make tourism happen in Jamaica. The people are the ones who work overtime, beyond the call of duty to make sure visitors are safe and that their needs are satisfactorily met. The people of Jamaica need to be valued and protected. After all, the tourism industry gives money to protect the wildlife and coral reefs when they feel like, and spend big money on fancy infrastructure improvements, claiming that they are more environmentally friendly. They need also to show that they have a heart and help the people of Jamaica not just their profit margins.

Thank you for making your vacation destination today, please ensure that our people remain safe in a volatile and changing world being dominated by greedy corporate machinery’s who have little or no social conscience.

About the author

Phil Dinham