Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says farm tourism has become an important value-added component of the industry and has a lot of potential for Jamaica.
The Minister said the move has been gaining traction in tourism circles globally, notably in the Caribbean, and that Jamaica is “geographically located and climatically conducive” to capitalise.
“Tour operators have been pushing the concept of ‘from the farm to the table’ in many countries worldwide,” Mr Bartlett noted.
“The marketing team of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) is also acutely aware of the allure of farm tours, and that it is one of those niche markets that should be aggressively pursued,” he added.
Mr Bartlett said that “food is a big hook for tourism across the globe,” pointing to statistics that show 88 per cent of persons who have considered travellers do so in search of food, and “this is where Jamaica can really shine”.
“More jobs would be created, more people would get into farming, the farmers would be able to earn foreign exchange.”— Bartlett
He also cited the various agro parks across the island where more than 6,000 acres of underutilised lands have now been brought into the fray for agricultural development as something that could also turn the spotlight on farm tourism.
“This is an opportunity for many of our farmhands to earn some much-needed foreign exchange,” Mr Bartlett said.
“More jobs would be created, more people would get into farming, the farmers would be able to earn foreign exchange, and the JTB would have another niche market to promote. This would be another huge plus for our economy,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, Mr Bartlett said that in Lilliput, St. James, persons are doing backyard farming, utilising hydroponic technology to produce vegetables for the hotels in Rose Hall.
For his part, President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Omar Robinson, said that “by diversifying their business, farmers can now tap into this niche market by earning foreign exchange, while at the same time increase consumption of their produce”.
He pointed out that at Round Hill Villas, where he is also the General Manager, his property not only uses all locally produced fruits but has cultivated an organic herb garden, which has become a huge hit with guests and tour operators.
“It is a big selling point for us. We use this as a marketing tool and it has been working,” Mr Robinson said.