What’s it like working on sustainable tourism projects in a popular holiday destination? In today’s blog piece, we gain insight from Coral Purvil-Williams (Jamaica Project Research Assistant, right in picture), and Annette Tingle (Jamaica Programmes Coordinator, left in picture), on the latest TF activity in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Coral is based in Montego Bay, and Annette in Kingston on the other side of the island. Whilst always in contact, Annette and Coral get together on a regular basis for meetings with stakeholders and project participants to ensure the smooth running of the Travel Foundation’s activities in Jamaica.
Last week, Annette and Coral spent three days together in Montego Bay, having been asked to provide feedback on a customer day trip by an excursion provider. Making the most of their joint time in town, they were also due to meet with the Rastafari Indigenous Village, and research Montego Bay hotspots (and those that are lesser known!) for new customer communication and staff training materials.
Who better to hear from on how their time was spent than from the Mo Bay resident herself, Coral…
“On Tuesday afternoon, after getting some administrative work out of the way in the morning and collecting Annette, our job was to meet with the excursion provider, before participating, ‘secret shopper’ style, in one of their Montego Bay shopping excursions. The idea was to provide feedback and recommendations relating to the amount and level of information provided by the tour guides, the quality of each stop and opportunities for participants to meet local people and purchase Jamaican drinks, snacks and souvenirs. Following on from the tour, we collated all our feedback and sent it on to the excursion provider.
On Wednesday, we visited ‘Ahhh… Ras Natango Gallery & Garden’ as we are thinking about including it in some new promotional materials about what to do and see in Montego Bay. The drive there was a great experience; we meandered along narrow roads, up some 2000ft, into the mountains while watching the pace of life in rural Montego Bay. Our time there was spent interacting with other guests and meeting with the owners.
After a quick lunch we were on our way to our next appointment at the Rastafari Indigenous Village (RIV) but unfortunately we received a call to say they were unable to accommodate us. This often happens when dealing with operational businesses; they need to react and respond to day-to-day activities which calls for us to remain adaptable and flexible. So, instead of meeting the RIV community we squeezed in a meeting at the Tortuga Rum Cake factory (which will be added, along with the gallery and gardens, to TF materials and potentially the excursion provider’s new tour) and completed the day with paperwork and planning! Annette will be back next month to meet with RIV…
On Thursday, we were up pretty early prepping for our scheduled meeting with the Sustainability Director for Karisma Hotels and Resorts at their Azul Sensatori hotel property in Negril. Following previous collaboration between TF and Karisma in Mexico, on the Jungle Jams project, the hotel group is interested in opportunities to get involved in sustainability work in Jamaica. This meeting was lengthy but productive – five hours later, it was quite a scramble to get Annette back to the bus station for her transfer back to Kingston – we now have some interesting options to consider!
As a result of our mystery shopping exercise and our site visits, the excursion provider has said that our feedback will be used to…
“enhance the quality of the (existing) Mo Bay shopping trip for our customers and to make it more sustainable for the community…” It was also mentioned that they are now “thinking of developing a (new) exclusive shopping trip for Montego Bay and I will use your recommendations when putting it together”.
These activities form part of TF’s project aimed at improving visitor circulation and spend in Montego Bay. TF are in the process of developing communications tools for visitors and training sessions for tourism staff which celebrate and promote the unique qualities of Montego Bay.