ACCOMPONG TOWN, Cockpit Country, Jamaica; January 9, 2017: Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has revealed that the 279-year-old Maroon community of Accompong is to have pride of place as the first cultural heritage location to be promoted worldwide as part of a new marketing initiative being driven by the Ministry’s Tourism Linkages Network.
“We will make Accompong the first destination and we will now place the anniversary festival on the calendar of events and market the community alongside the destination when we go abroad to market experiences in Jamaica”, said Minister Bartlett. He noted that, “we are satisfied that the authenticity of this experience will enhance Jamaica’s presence in the global arena.”
The Ministry’s plan for the community was outlined by the Minister as he gave the keynote address at last Friday’s festival commemorating the 279th Anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty by the Maroons and the British. “We are going to work with Colonel Ferron Williams and his cultural committee to build out this festival experience to make it a calendar event that is promoted to all visitors who come to Jamaica,” the Minister said.
Since assuming office in 2016, Minister Bartlett has been laying the foundation for the growth and diversification of Jamaica’s tourism industry through five new networks; Sports and Entertainment, Gastronomy, Health and Wellness, Shopping and Knowledge. They operate under the Ministry’s overarching Tourism Linkages Network, which seeks to drive the development of these sub-sectors to further diversify our tourism offerings, create business opportunities and increase the use of local goods and services within the tourism sector. The new marketing programme is being developed by the Sports and Entertainment Network working in collaboration with the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).
He said the festival on January 6 each year had become an international event which “opens the door for many thousands of locals and visitors who flock to the mountain settlement each year and immerse themselves in the rich life, culture and history of the heroic Maroons through their music, dance, story-telling, craft and food.”
As Minister Bartlett spoke, many international visitors sat comfortably on the ground listening while savoring meals of freshly jerked chicken and pork.
From as far back as the late 1990s, the Ministry of Tourism through the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) has been working with the Maroons to develop the tourism product from which they have been benefitting through tours.
Some of the physical works such as signage and improvements to the community centre in the area have since deteriorated. Minister Bartlett announced that in addition to $9 million recently provided by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to repair the roadway from New Holland to Accompong; an additional $20 million will be allocated to repair the roadway to the area.
Signage which had been erected by TPDCo are to be improved and public facilities repaired. Col. Williams was tasked to ensure these amenities will be maintained and kept in pristine condition.
To further enhance the scope of Accompong’s cultural offerings, the tourism ministry will also collaborate with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) in building a cultural centre for the young people to develop their talents, enhance their capabilities “but more importantly, provide the basis for public education and cultural development,” said Minister Bartlett.
The Maroon Festival held on January 6, each year was a resounding success this time around as usual. The vibrancy and rich cultural display of a proud and talented people were on show … and it was quite a show.
Maroon means runaway slave.
We are delighted that Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is thinking of adding this festival as a serious attraction and to promote same internationally. Many tourists were there at Accompong on January 6, 2017.
Commentary by Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie – Senior International Correspondent for Vision
Newspaper, West Indies