Craft traders are being encouraged to further tap into their creativity as they prepare for what is projected to be Jamaica’s best tourist season ever.
The encouragement comes from Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Tourism, David Dobson, who was addressing the Tourism Product Development Company’s (TPDCo) ‘Crafting for Christmas’ fair at Devon House on December 16.
The event was held a day after the start of the winter tourist season, which Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, told JIS News in a recent interview, promises to be “a very strong winter of recovery” with some 1.3 million airline seats to the island already secured.
Dobson urged the craft vendors to prepare “to catch the wave” of the winter boom by providing unique, authentic craft items for tourists.
“Visitors want bragging rights and want to be able to show off a little piece of Jamaica when they return home…visitors crave authenticity, and unique products fetch better prices and yield greater profit margins,” he noted.
He said that the tourism ministry continues to have an interest in the craft sector as local artisans have helped the country to maintain a competitive advantage by “communicating the authenticity of Jamaica’s tourism product.”
“This they do by creating timeless pieces that capture the spirit of Jamaica and help to tell our story, which is a melting pot of creativity and diversity,” he pointed out.
At the same time, TPDCo Executive Director, Wade Mars, noted the concern about the proliferation of goods made in other countries in the local craft markets and the “sameness” of offerings.
“What we want, of course, is Jamaican-ness to the items that are being sold right across the craft markets,” he said.
He gave the TPDCo’s commitment to working with the craft sector to ensure that “Jamaica’s tourism product shines and is top of mind, and our craft sector is not left behind.”
In the meantime, Dobson assured artisans that the training that was initiated in pre-COVID times in areas such as bamboo basketry, sewn products, embroidery and others, is to resume in 2023.
He also pointed out that 31 members of the executive bodies in selected craft markets in Kingston and Portland along with eight executives from Falmouth received instruction in conflict resolution in 2022.
He said that further training is to take place in the New Year in the other designated craft markets across the island.
The TPDCo has also ensured that all craft traders that operate in designated craft markets are schooled in ‘Team Jamaica,’ which is its flagship programme.
In addition, the entity has, during the COVID-19 pandemic, disbursed grants to the craft sector, waived millions of dollars in fees, and was able to negotiate with landlords to ease the burden of rent payments for a specified period.
The ‘Crafting for Christmas’ fair featured dozens of local artisans offering to patrons a variety of Jamaican-made products ranging from paintings, body care products, jewellery, photography, books, clothing and accessories, to plants, candles, straw and leather goods, and more.
Dobson urged patrons, as they seek Christmas gifts, “to support our craft traders with a recognition of the work they have lovingly put into the pieces, the time and creativity they have spent and the passion they have put into every stroke of brush, every piece of wood they carve, or every straw they weave.”