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Minister McNeill underscores importance of voluntourism

Ministry of Tourism | 2013-10-07 00:00:00

Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, has revealed that efforts are afoot to further develop volunteer tourism, or  voluntourism, as a means of fostering social development locally. This as Minister McNeill emphasized that voluntourism has the potential to assist in the development of not only the tourism sector but the nation at large.

Minister McNeill was addressing representatives from the local and international dental fraternity at the official launch of Oral Health Month and the accompanying symposium recently, at the Main Medical Lecture Theatre, University of the West Indies, Mona.

Lauding the Jamaica Dental Association’s (JDA) Oral Health Month initiative to raise public awareness and sensitize people to the importance of proper dental hygiene, Minister McNeill underscored that there is a growing global trend of voluntourism among travelers who want to engage in meaningful vacations by dedicating part of their stay to voluntary service. It was highlighted that a poll conducted by publishers Conde Nast and MSNBC found that 14% of respondents had taken a volunteer holiday, but 55% said they would like to. 

“The gap between desire and experience is encouraging to us in the tourism ministry and we are making every effort to cultivate the new opportunities offered by this emerging market,” said Minister McNeill. 

He added that, “Jamaica benefits socially, economically and culturally from volunteer tourism, whether it’s new buildings being built, a clean supply of water being provided, or the provision of free health and dental care.  In addition, communities benefit from these tourists spending their money in locally owned restaurants and shops resulting in greater retention of tourism earnings. ”

Minister McNeill cited health tourism as another point of intersection between the dental profession and tourism, stating that the US government’s Affordable Care Act had inadvertently created opportunities around the issue of dental care upon which Jamaica could possibly capitalize in tourism.  He said that in the foreseeable future dentistry in the USA may become more expensive and that the Diaspora, which is a big market, has long taken advantage of the high level of dental services available in Jamaica at a relatively affordable cost.

“This opens the door to wide possibilities,” Minister McNeill said. “From a marketing perspective we recognize the benefits of being close, affordable and English-speaking and by forming alliances with members of your profession this is an area on which we could capitalize,” he added.

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