Culture, tourism and sustainability: An ethnographic study of rural community development in Jamaica

Ernest Taylor, Coventry University
This week’s highlighted study examines the role of culture and tourism in the sustainable development of Jamaican rural communities. Taking an ethnographic approach, the author focuses on two distinct rural communities – the Charles Town Maroon and German descendants of the inland Seaford Town. The study examines the meaning held by these two communities’ culture in terms of identity, sense of place and community development. Going further, the author assesses the degree to which each of these communities are capitalizing on aspects of tangible and intangible culture in their tourism planning.
There is an impetus for this style of research, both within Jamaica and abroad. The transition away from traditional small-scale agriculture has led to challenges for many rural inhabitants. The viability of farming as a source of income has been inhibited, and local communities are faced with issues of capacity as they plan for a stronger economic future. Rural community tourism has been seen as a viable strategy for many communities facing these circumstances, but this comes with its own sets of challenges (infrastructure, seasonality of visitors, local capacity, etc.). Fortunately, as new waves of tourists are seeking “authentic” experiences as they travel abroad – away from the resort setting – there is promise in this form of planning.
According to Taylor, in these communities, the transition from a demised agricultural economy to one that places greater emphasis on local culture resources is marked by the integration of culture in tourism strategies. But the reasons cultural resources are not being fully capitalized on are multifaceted, including issues that are both socio-economic and historical in nature. In response, there is strength in a modified tourism framework that encompasses the socio-economic, cultural and emotional dimensions of these communities. Included in this framework can be the role of traditional agriculture in providing local cultural food items to visitors, and other strategies intent on growing the cultural roots of the community as well as foster greater economic certainty going forward.
Taylor’s full dissertation can be found HERE.

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