KINGSTON, Jamaica: Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says that, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico, “there is no other Caribbean island which can boast a wealth of cultural heritage to outpace Jamaica”.
“It is precisely because Jamaica has paid attention to our cultural heritage that we are one of the most attractive tourism destinations in the Caribbean,” Bartlett was quoted as saying in a speech which was read by Executive Director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, Ian Neita.
Neita was addressing a dinner at Fort Charles, Port Royal, last week which was held for delegates attending the Inter-city Intangible Cultural Co-operation Network (ICCN) conference.
Bartlett said the nation’s recent successes on the world sporting stage have led to “a major interest into who Jamaicans are as a people, what is our history and what it is that makes us run so fast and why we dance the way we do”.
“Recognizing all of this, development and marketing of our cultural heritage icons is part of our tourism development strategy. We strongly believe in this approach, and certainly advocate it for countries which have such assets,” he said.
Statistics from the World Tourist Organization indicate about 20 per cent of tourist trips worldwide incorporate some form of cultural, heritage or historical activity and the market has the potential for growth, fueled by the growing list of world heritage sites recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Bartlett said of the more than 890 locations that UNESCO considers as having outstanding universal value, “Jamaica is privileged to have three such sites on a tentative list. In addition to Port Royal, (there is) Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, (and) Seville Heritage Park, which is the site of one of the first Spanish settlements in the new world, dating from 1509”.
Bartlett said that, as awareness of UNESCO’s world heritage sites increase and their cultural importance is more fully recognized, demand to visit these sites, especially those classified as “in danger”, is likely to increase the volume of cultural tourists worldwide.
A number of mayors, deputy mayors, counselors and secretary managers were at the dinner, which was hosted by Mayor of Kingston, Senator Desmond McKenzie. The three-day ICCN conference was held to facilitate an avenue that will showcase and enhance the cultural heritage of member cities and countries.
The ICCN is an international organization of local government officials and their administrators, which aims to safeguard the cultural heritage of member countries at the local level.
The initiative was developed at the International Round Table of Mayors on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which was held in Korea in 2004. (JIS)