Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon Dr. Wykeham McNeill has lauded the newly developed Rastafari Indigenous Village, located in Irwin St. James, as a unique and appealing project which will significantly enhance the island’s tourism product. Minister McNeill expressed optimism about the prospects of the venture following a tour of the Village recently by government officials.
Minister McNeill was accompanied by State Minister for Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Damion Crawford, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mrs. Jennifer Griffith, Director General Ms. Carrole Guntley, Executive Director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) Mr. Clyde Harrison, as well as representatives from the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
The Rastafari Indigenous Village is a community based tourism project funded under JSIF’s Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) programme, which seeks to reduce rural poverty by increasing the earning potential of rural communities. The Village introduces visitors to the Rastafarian lifestyle, through a unique tour which provides perspectives on Rastafarian culture, music, cuisine and history.
The tour provides an interactive sensory experience and takes visitors on a trek from the Montego River Gardens, through the Montego River to a riverside grove and up to the Village Garden where they can participate in various cultural activities.
Minister McNeill said he is pleased that the facility is centred around an experience. He emphasized that “our culture remains extremely attractive to persons all across the globe, and the Rastafarian culture is very unique and captivating. So I think this is a very good facility which will allow visitors to experience this distinctive culture first-hand.”
Managing Director of JSIF, Mrs. Scarlett Gillings, noted that JSIF has provided $18 million for the initiative, which is being used to finance, among other things, the construction of 8 rooms for visitors, fencing, as well as a theatre and office building. She emphasized that “we have always wanted to work with the tourism sector and we are very pleased to aid in the development of tourism at the community level.”
Dr. McNeill is convinced that the Village presents a very good platform to assess the effectiveness of the policy framework being introduced to develop community tourism islandwide. He said “I am convinced that this project will provide us with an excellent opportunity to put the newly developed Community Based Tourism Policy, which is being introduced by the Ministry, to the test.”