Tourism in Jamaica's pre-independence colonial days saw the development of many top quality locally owned hotels, and a fair influx of foreign investment.
But even then, several proposals for the development of major resorts by foreign investors, in parishes such as Hanover and Westmoreland, were frowned upon by the powers that were, and never came to fruition.
But for the past two decades there seems to has been a haphazard explosion of development taking place in tourism all around the island.
Sadly, much of this development has been carried out with little regard for the environment, it is not sustainable and of benefit to Jamaica, and it is slowly destroying our island?
Let's have a quick look at our tourist industry since Independence in 1962.
In the 70's and 80's foreign owned hotels and resorts were taken over by the Government and Jamaicanized.
And the Jamaican "All Inclusive Resort" was born.
In 1949 Abe Issa, "The Father of Jamaican Tourism", opened the world renowned Tower Isle Hotel. In 1978, he pioneered the all-inclusive concept for couples, and the Tower Isle became Couples Ocho Rios.
Couples Resorts now owns and operates four all-inclusive luxury boutique resorts on the island. It is still a family business, owned by members of Abe's family, and now led by Abe's son, Lee.
Butch Stewart, entered the hotel business in the 70's with his Sandals all inclusive resorts for couples, and then added the Beaches all inclusive resorts for families. More recently the Grand Pineapple resorts have followed.
The Sandals Group now operates 20 all inclusive resorts:
Both have these groups have been highly successful. They have been pioneers of the all inclusive resort industry in Jamaica and elsewhere, and have supported the concept of responsible and sustainable tourism.
Franklin Rance, a former partner in the SuperClubs Group, created the Franklyn D. Resort & Spa in Runaway Bay, another highly successful all inclusive for families.
John Issa set up the SuperClub Group which took over Negril Beach Village and converted it into Hedonism ll. They now have 3 Breezes Resorts, and 2 Rooms Resorts in Jamaica.
The wheel has turned full circle, and the Jamaican tourist industry has seen many new foreign owned resorts spring up everywhere, with plans for many more to follow.
The BIG and loaded question is:
"Is this develpment of our tourist industry sustainable and being properly regulated so that our island, our people, our communities, and our tourists benefit?
Or is development being approved that is destroying the ecology of our coastline, is detrimental to our local communities, and is instead benefiting "a few".
Everyone knows that large sections of our coastline and reefs have been very severely affected by irresponsible and unsustainable development in the past.
Are we going to continue to see this irresponsible and unsustainable development in our tourist industry, with the blessing of our Government?
If so, why? Who is gaining what from this?
This 11 minute video produced by the The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is a must watch if you are at all interested in the protection of our environment and the responsible development of our tourist industry.
JET is a non-profit, non-governmental environmental membership organization. Anyone who supports protection of the environment can join.
Are the Spanish once again being allowed to plunder a distant Caribbean island, without any regard for the local communities and the environment?
Are we being sold out to the Spanish, at the expense of our island's welfare and ecology, and for the gain of a few, as has so often happened in the past?
My name is Spanish, so I must be related to one of those plundering Spanish invaders in 1494, who were led by an Italian Cristoforo Colombo, who went by the name Cristóbal Colón in Spain.
His journey of "Discovery" resulted in the decimation of our Taino/Arawak people, who incidentally didn't ask to be "discovered", in what today I believe would be called genocide.
I have no axe to grind with the Spanish, but this is the island of my birth, and I have to ask:
"Are we now suffering another Spanish invasion of Jamaica and destruction of our environment, this time with the full approval and backing of our Government?"
And "If so, why? For whose benefit"
There are many, many organizations and individuals in Jamaica who have been working hard for decades to try and ensure that any development within our tourist industry is responsible, sustainable and of benefit to local communities.
The Issa Trust Foundation, the Sandals Foundation, the Rockhouse Foundation, New York property tycoon James Goren, and many others have been supporting responsible and sustainable tourism in Jamaica, and actively supporting local communities in various ways, from education to housing.
Ceciline McIntyre and her daughter Diana have pioneered Community Tourism in Jamaica, and fought hard for its recognition and development.
Diana's fight for responsible, sustainable community based tourism in Jamaica has often brought her in to direct conflict with many in the Government.
But, Jamaica is now considered to be the "Home of Community Tourism", and it does not matter whether you want to call it ...
... ALL tourism needs to be responsible and sustainable for the welfare of our tourists, our Jamaican people, our Jamaican communities, and Jamaica.
The goals must be to:
ALL Jamaica's tourism should strive to maximize the positive benefits, and minimise the negative impact on the environment, our communities, and Jamaica's ecology.
Before any more destruction of our environment takes place the Government of Jamaica must ensure that ALL development within the tourist sector is responsible, sustainable and environmentally friendly.
And so must ALL hoteliers and hotel chains, local or foreign owned,
Foreign investment in our island is essential ... but our Government must protect our island from irresponsible development which damages our communities, environment, ecology, culture, or heritage.
No investor, whether foreign or local, must be allowed to plunder and decimate our island resources for rewards that go to a few.
And we don't need any green-washing by Government or any organization connected with tourism in Jamaica.
Green-washing is spin which deceptively gives the impression that an organization's policies or products are environmentally friendly.
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