This week we play 10 questions with former Jamaican Minister of Tourism, Aloun Ndombet-assamba

A daughter of the St. Ann soil that bred Jamaican greats such as Garvey and Marley, Aloun Ndombet-assamba is, by right, a heroine in law, politics, and community service in Jamaica. She has served her country in several capacities, including Minister of Tourism, Entertainment, and Culture, Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Technology, and as a Government Senator. An attorney-at-law, Ms. Ndombet-Assamba was General Manager of COK Cooperative Credit Union Limited for nearly ten years and is currently a member of the Board of Directors. Aloun has spent much of her time volunteering with organizations such as the United Way, Lions Club of New Kingston, the Women’s Leadership Initiative, and several other local schools and organizations. In recognition of her professionalism and service, the American Biographical Institute declared Ms. Ndombet-Assamba “Woman of the Year” in 1999. The former Deputy Head Girl at Alpha (Convent of Mercy Academy) earned her degrees from the University of the West Indies and the Norman Manley Law School, respectively. She was also a Heinz Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, USA, where she studied Strategic Management. In addition to managing her many civic and professional commitments, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba teaches and mentors students at the UWI Mona School of Business and the Norman Manley Law School. A lover of culture, people, and rivers, Ndombet-Assamba shares her passion for all things Jamaican in this interview.

1)    What have you been doing since your tenure as Minister of Tourism?
I have been an attorney since 1981 so I have gone back to the practice of law. I do mostly general civil practice. I took a little time off after I gave up my position as Minister of Tourism; I was tired and needed a break, so I took time off and then opened my private practice. I currently have an office in Kingston and one in St. Ann’s Bay, which just opened earlier this year. In addition, I have continued political work in my party and I have also gone back into a lot of the kind of community volunteerism that I used to be involved in before I became a minister. I have an adult son and a lot of nieces and nephews and I am now able to spend more time with family and friends, which is very important. They had to understand and take a back seat when I was involved in being a minister so now I spend time with them.

2)     What place would you consider a gem in the making on the island?
The good thing about Jamaica is that there are so many different kinds of experiences that one can get from a vacation. If you want the sea and sun, we have that and you can get that experience anywhere along the coast. If you want to be in the mountains and just and have a view of the sea, there are places in the mountains in St. Mary and Portland that you can visit. One of the most fabulous things for me is to stay in Portland, at a friend’s home, in the bedroom facing the east. The first morning I stayed there, I woke up and right away I knew why they didn’t have any curtains; I woke up and saw the sun rising and to me, that was the most spectacular thing I had ever seen! The south coast is a gem in the making though. I recently attended the Calabash Festival and Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth ( is a place that allows community involvement in the tourism process.

3)    Can we look forward to a travel book from you?
It’s something that I have actually considered! I have an idea of what I’d want to put in the book but I’d have to collaborate with someone who has the time to help me put it together. I have traveled extensively in Jamaica and can tell you lots about places in Jamaica. You name a place and I have probably been there—whether it’s on the coast or along the beaten path. My family and I would always pack up and travel to a different place on the island so I’ve seen a lot. So yes, I have an idea and I just need to find the time to do it.

4)    We are approaching the wedding season. What locations would you recommend for a romantic wedding in Jamaica?
Weddings themselves are so romantic that you can have a wedding anywhere and arrange the surroundings to suit your needs and budget. If you want to get married in a church, I would recommend that the ceremony be  held at the Catholic Church in Ocho Rios because it’s right on the edge of a cliff, the backdrop is the sea, the windows are open and that’s the view you get. There is another cute church, which is the Catholic Church at St. Ann’s Bay. Strawberry Hills or Half Moon is nice. However, I have actually seen beautiful weddings on most of the properties we have on the island. They have lovely spaces. All of the hotels can give you the kind of wedding that you dream of on your budget. I was at Swept Away recently, and every half an hour there was a wedding right outside my hotel room! It’s cheaper to have your wedding in Jamaica because you can get so much done at a decent price.

5)    What are your top five tourist attractions in Jamaica?
It’s hard to pick only five but all of my top five have to do with water—being in or on it. Funny enough, I hadn’t realized but they are all related to rivers too! There is something about the water that I just love.
1.    Rafting on Rio Grande—three hours of what I think is the most beautiful and tranquil experience and there are spots where you get off and swim in that nice cold water. I just love that!
2.    River Tubing on the White River—being in the water going down the river. There are tranquil spots and others where the rapids are so you can relax and also get your heart racing within minutes.
3.    Climbing Dunn’s River Falls—I have been doing this since I was a child. In the early days, you could spend all your time on the falls. I grew up in Moneague and as a child, I would spend my entire day running up and down the falls.
4.    Going on the Black River Safari—going on a boat and going up the Black River and watching the crocodiles is a remarkable experience
5.    Swimming with the Dolphins at Dolphin Cove—there is one at Half Moon, one in Ocho Rios, and a new Dolphin Cove is being developed in the Lucea/Sandy Bay area.
There are others that I love but since I have only five choices, that’s it!

6)    When is the best time of year for people to come to Jamaica?
It depends on what they are coming to do. A lot of returning Jamaicans come in the summer and Christmas. If you are interested in our culture, lots of our festival/cultural/food activities take place in the summer. If you’re coming to be involved in Jamaican activities, I’d say the summer or around Christmas time is a good time. If you’re coming to just enjoy Jamaica, any time of the year is good because you can be on the beach most of the times—except if the rain is falling (and the rain falls in specific months like April, May, and sometimes in the summer). There is always something happening. If you’re coming to eat, sleep, drink and swim, then come anytime! You can come in May for Calabash or you can come at the end of July/early August for Emancipation celebrations (and there is something going on all over the island during that period). You can come when we’re having sporting activities (we host international cricket matches) and there is a football match going on in Jamaica just about every week in many places. If you’re interested in polo there is a polo season. If you want fishing, there is the Marlin Tournament in Port Antonio in October. There is something going on all the time in Jamaica.

7)    What would be the first piece of advice you would offer to first-time visitors to Jamaica?
I know you hear a lot of things about Jamaica; some of it is true and some of it is not true. When there are upheavals or violence, it’s usually limited to very small areas of Jamaica, usually in the city of Kingston and sometimes in parts of Montego Bay but never in the areas in which our visitors often find themselves. So come to Jamaica with an open mind! Come to Jamaica knowing that you have a responsibility to yourself for your own safety, which is the same thing that Jamaicans traveling abroad feel about traveling. You can go into any city where they have their problems. I’ve gone to several places where I was told “don’t go there” {referring to some parts of those cities}. Jamaica is just like any other place. The first time I saw soldiers with guns in a tourist area was in a country in Central America! We don’t have that in Jamaica. You just have to be careful, as you would need to be in any strange place. Jamaica is safe for our visitors.    
8)    Any chance that we will see you on television doing a travel show in the near future?
I haven’t been asked but I’d love to! I would consider doing my own show. Of course one would have to find the sponsorship for that sort of thing but I’d love to do it!

9)    What Jamaican movie/song/play still stops you in your tracks although you have seen it many times?
I go to most of the plays that open in Kingston. I watch movies and I like romantic comedies. I saw Smile Orange again at Calabash, which was wonderful. I also saw The Harder they Come and  I love How Stella Got her Groove Back because the movie highlighted some beautiful places on the island.

10)    Apart from Jamaica, what is one place you would go on a dream vacation?
I did a lot of traveling before I became Minister of Tourism. I’ve been to China, Australia, Peru, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Brazil, USA, Canada, and many countries in Africa and Europe. My dream vacation is not just about the place, it’s about my frame of mind at the time and about the company that I’m with. My head needs to be clear and straight and that determines how much I enjoy the vacation. There are a couple of places I’ve been and will never forget. Niagara Falls is one of them. I could just stand up on that wall and just watch the water and I’m transported. I love the Bog Walk gorges with the river running on the side. My driver will tell you that whenever I’m passing that area, I’m always looking out of the car into the river. Every year I go with my sister and friends to Barbados to a friend’s house on the beach and we do nothing! We just fill the house with food and liquor and we do nothing. My dream vacation has to include people.

11)    Are there any final comments or tips that you would like us to know?
I enjoyed my stint at Minister of Tourism. I met some wonderful people! I met some people who absolutely love Jamaica. I would like to thank the people who make Jamaica their home and visitors who come to visit and who make Jamaica their own.


About the author

Kerri-Ann M. Smith

Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith is an author and educator. She is an Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. She is a patois translator, a wife, and the mother of two beautiful little girls. She is a senior writer for