Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has assured craft traders in the fast developing resort town of Negril that $80 million has been allocated to construct an artisan village in the area.
“I am pleased to announce to you today that we are going to proceed with the development of the infrastructure for the craft entrepreneurs in Negril by way of building out the artisan village here in Negril,” Minister Bartlett told the craft traders when he met with them on the weekend. This as the Minister and other officials from the Ministry of Tourism and its agencies visited the area as part of a winter tourist season motivational tour.
He told the gathering at the Negril Green Island Planning Authority that details of the $80 million project would be outlined to them by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) early in the New Year.
“Some aspects of the design are already completed and we will have to work with you for full buy-in because one of the things that we want to ensure is that you have very commodious setting and comfort,” he noted.
Five artisan villages are slated to be built across the island. They will be one-stop-shop facilities where visitors can see the creation and merchandising of craft items, while enjoying authentic Jamaican entertainment and leisure activities. It will also provide an avenue for Jamaican artists and craftsmen to expose and express their creativity by producing unique indigenous items, thus, limiting the volume of imported craft items that are being sold in the industry.
Using his preferred reference to them as craft entrepreneurs, Minister Bartlett said the craft subsector had a special and key role to play in building out the experience of the Negril destination. “We need to build for you the infrastructure, the regulatory and the legislative framework that will give you the space to grow, expand and to prosper,” he said. Advising them that their job was to grow, Mr. Bartlett said there had to be dialogue on how they were going to make that happen.
He reiterated a desire to see the sector producing creative Jamaican art and craft at a very high standard and in quantities that could meet big commercial orders. He therefore outlined that craft traders would be trained under a memorandum of understanding now being finalized with the Edna Manley Collage of the Visual and Performing Arts, adding that the details of that partnership are to be disclosed in January.
Minister Bartlett had additional advice for the craft traders. “I want you to be organized into, whether it is a cooperative or a company, with a legal arrangement so that your organization can enter into contracts with big companies to produce the large quantities of items that hotels or other companies will need,” he said. It was outlined that the TPDCo Entrepreneurial Team will sit with the traders to work out having that done.
The Minister also advised the craft traders to take advantage of loan facilities established by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) working in collaboration with entities such as EXIM Bank, through which small and medium-sized tourism enterprises (SMTEs) can access from $5 million up to $25 million at 5% interest for five years. Such facilities he notes can help to put them in a position to compete and supply on a wider scale.
We support Artisan Villages as they will create a marketplace and skilled environment to help enhance the tourism product.
Artisans need to improve their skills so the tourist can get genuine locally produced gift items. Projecting large penises have their place as cultural expressions or offerings, but we need to be a little more imaginative.
When tourists come here they want to show off to their friends that they came on this rock and invariably want to take back something that really depicts our rich culture. We are skilled people and with the right leadership and guidance can produce world class products that truly enhance our tourism product offering.
The artisan village concept is a good move and we endorse same. Train the artisans and help them to market their goods.
It will be a win win for all.
Commentary by Hopeton O’Connor -Dennie, Senior International Correspondent & photojournalist for Vision Newspaper Canada.