In keeping with its commitment to connect tourism with other productive sectors, the Tourism Linkages Network (TLN), a unit of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), plans to continue full speed ahead into 2023.
Much to the satisfaction of the tourism industry and its many players, some four billion tourists are expected to travel to Jamaica within the next five years. And so, through myriad projects and programmes to kick off the new year, TLN will be zooming in on one main question: How can Jamaicans benefit?
“How can we sustain our businesses? This is what the Tourism Linkages Network is about. Last year was a great year coming out of COVID. And this year, as we hopefully recover to the point where our figures will exceed 2019 levels, the TLN is fully geared to get back into a number of its programmes,” Carolyn McDonald-Riley, director of the network tells Jamaica Observer’s LetsTravelCaribbean.com.
Excitedly, McDonald-Riley says there are many plans on the horizon that should make the new year remarkable for local tourism players at all levels.
“We have five networks and two technical working groups. We’re looking forward to our annual speed networking, which is where we really connect with our owners of the tourism space, whether it’s the head of the hotels, attractions or toll operators, to meet with persons from our productive sector — meeting the persons who make things, meeting the persons who plant things, meeting our service providers,” she says. “We have one whole day of meetings dedicated to that and we’re looking forward to being out face-to-face.”
McDonald-Riley says interest and expectations are also high for the 2023 staging of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival, which is a staple, three-day experience filled with food, coffee and culture. It also showcases indigenous arts and crafts, live performances and one-of-a-kind experiences.
“Last year, it was at Devon House and this year we’re looking forward to returning to Newcastle. And it’s a whole experience with the Blue Mountain culinary trail. We will get infused into the coffee experience. We have our Blue Mountain culinary trails. All the businesses that side; we hope to expose them some more and hopefully to get more visitors and locals alike going on the Blue Mountain tours, experiencing the Blue Mountain coffee experience,” McDonald-Riley tells LetsTravelCaribbean.com.
Moving away from the luscious mountains, McDonald-Riley says there is great attention towards providing “a number of other guest gastronomic experiences” at Devon House on Hope Road in Kingston. The venue is undergoing a much-talked-about upgrade. She says a gastronomy centre will soon be unveiled there.
She also notes that Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett will soon provide details about a pop-up kitchen where family and friends can “have a whole cooking experience”.
Well aware of the importance of being involved long before produce gets to the table, McDonald-Riley says TLN recently launched a food safety manual that speaks to the sustainability of the agriculture sector. About a month ago, it worked with Minister Bartlett and his counterpart in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr, to launch a programme that clearly outlines guidelines for best practices.
“It speaks to our farming practices, what is expected, what is the standard. And we’ll be doing a road show with all of our farmers across the island, especially the ones who supply the tourism space,” she says.
“We also have our ALEX [Agri-Linkages Exchange] platform where we connect the dots between our farmers and our purchasing persons from the tourism industry. We’ve been enhancing that platform. We’ll also be doing another road show to encourage more persons to sign up on ALEX.”
Having recently completed a demand study, McDonald-Riley reveals that TLN is currently conducting a supply study, which she says will assist the network in identifying what the tourism sector really has to offer.
“We already know what the demands are. We’ll connect those dots and we will have an opportunities’ forum for us to look where those investment opportunities are, and we hopefully will get our people to invest in those opportunities. So those are some of the things we’re really looking forward to. We continue our training in our farming areas, providing our persons with needed utensils and tools for farming in our tourism space, but more importantly, the training. And those are really some exciting things coming up in agriculture.”
By Romardo Lyons