After two years of working in Jamaica, I have acquired new tastes, some new dance moves and even a fresh take on the English language! Indeed, I enjoyed experiencing an island that has come of age. As a Trinidadian, I always find it amusing when persons I come across on my travels automatically assume anyone from the Caribbean is from Jamaica. Now I can appreciate why, and I am proud to consider this beautiful country as one of my homes away from home!
While the English speaking Caribbean has much of the same history, Jamaica has had its share of fame, and notoriety throughout. From Port Royal’s one time designation as the ‘wealthiest and wickedest’ city on earth to Britain’s heavy dependence and economic focus on the colony during the heights of sugar and slavery, Jamaica has always had relevance. While not a large exporter of goods anymore, it is most famous for its people and their exploits in music, culture and sports. Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and even Garvey who popularised the saying “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery”, are all examples of Jamaica’s influence and global appeal.
One of the many outstanding features of this island is the phenomenal talent both seen and unseen. For example, musical diamonds in the rough abound, and when you get an opportunity to witness them up close at a little café in Negril or even up at the Dub Club on the Kingston skyline – it’s magical. Granted, there is more to this winning formula than just pure magic, such as Jamaica’s many contributions to the world’s musical genres, which is a foundational element of it being the breeding ground for breakout talents such as Koffee or Chronixx. Coming from the land of Soca and Calypso, to live in the land of Reggae and Rock steady, I can say – Jamaica is much more than sun, sea and sand.
One of my most important professional experiences on the island was my opportunity to participate in the selection of several tertiary scholarship recipients through the Carreras Scholarship programme. This annual programme sees successful enterprising and talented young adults furnished with essential financial support towards the completion of their tertiary studies. The life stories and talent on display remain with me as a source of inspiration. I believe this program has made a difference in each of the successful participants’ lives and I am forever humbled by the opportunity to be a part of such a genuine initiative.
I still am amazed at the prospect of being able to do something different every weekend, both before and safely during the pandemic. From attending international food or music festivals, a weekend of athletic meets, exploring one of the over 120 mystical rivers, dozens of rejuvenating waterfalls or just a weekend getaway at a world-class resort, there is always something to do. Most are unique experiences, which cannot be easily replicated, given the distinctive mix of tastes, culture or gorgeous and indigenous geography.
While Jamaica continues to be heavily reliant on services for over 70% of its GDP, agricultural products, mineral extraction, and manufacturing all have opportunities to be further developed. The country has adapted to a more open investment model to encourage further foreign direct investment. This direction makes it attractive to would-be property developers and other industrial interests looking for lucrative business opportunities. Listed as having the best performing stock exchange globally before the pandemic, Jamaica is certainly a destination that has lots to offer to potential investors.
COVID has hit many of our Caribbean Islands where it hurts with expected declines in tourist arrivals. Jamaica took the bold step however to remain open during the pandemic. Reading the signals and recovery stories for hotel chains in some other markets, this could prove to be a shrewd move as with the deployment of vaccine, people are returning to the skies. Jamaica maintains its status as an ideal destination.
To continue to grow in competitiveness in a post-pandemic world, Jamaica and other Caribbean territories must consider targeting an evolving type of traveller, particularly those interested in eco-tourism and sustainable holidays. A big part of the sustainable travel experience focuses on exquisite culinary cuisine, safe routes for trekkers and cyclists, and potentially developing more extraordinary facilities for outdoor camping that allow the revenue from tourism to directly impact the economy of local communities.
The digital sector is a developing area of business. As remote work becomes the norm, there will be opportunities for entrepreneurs to start global companies. In addition, it can act as an incentive for foreigners to relocate to Jamaica for a better quality of life while offering remote work in the US or other regions. The growing business process outsourcing (BPO) and the emerging global services sector (GSS), powered by Jamaica’s high education standards, nearshoreness to large markets and a unique but also neutral tonality that adapts well to BPO sector needs.
Building future resilience will be a crucial area of focus for Jamaica and other Caribbean islands as we move forward. There will be an increasing need to focus on what makes us unique among other destinations and attracts a more long-term type of tourist. A focus on safety and developing even further the quality of experiences, considering growing concerns around climate change, will be a fundamental part of the future model.
As a region, we must find opportunities to reduce our energy costs to make our tourism product much more cost-effective. How can we harness the energy of our sun, sea, and even wind that has served us well in attracting interest and tourist traffic in the past to now power a more sustainable future?
I believe with the wealth of human capital and the belief that we can achieve above and beyond, we can overcome even the sternest of challenges. I remain grateful for the experience and will continue to do my part to share the positive vibes.
About the author: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jason-w-fournillier-4b96654/
Jason Fournillier is a Trinidadian businessman and change specialist, skilled in the art of making things happen. He has experience in creating successful business units in over 25 markets. He does this by applying his philosophy to Persist Until Something Happens (PUSH). Jason is passionate about Caribbean prosperity and sustainable development and works to ensure cooperation and wins for all sides.