Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme

Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme

Kingston 10, Jamaica
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The mission of the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme is to deliver a high quality tourism product that supports communities and conservation of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP). This project will establish the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme.
The BJCMNP is located in eastern Jamaica and has an area of 495.2km2. Recognising the site’s global significance for biodiversity and cultural heritage, the Government of Jamaica has just nominated the BJCMNP as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The National Park is managed by the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT/Green Jamaica). Under the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme, ...

About You
Contact Information
Title

Mrs.

First name

Susan

Last name

Otuokon

Your job title

Executive Director

Name of your organization

Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT/Green Jamaica)

Organization type

NGO

Annual budget/currency

JA$25 million

Mailing address

29 Dumbarton Avenue

Telephone number

876-960-2848

Postal/Zip Code

Kingston 10

Country
Email address

jamaicaconservation @gmail.com

Alternative email address

Alternative email address

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

29 Dumbarton Avenue

City

Kingston 10

State/Province
Postal/Zip Code
Country
Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourist experience and educational benefit to tourists , Quality of benefit to residents for the destination , Quality of tourism management by destination leadership , Quality of stewardship of the destination.

Organization size

Small (1 to 100 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Conservation/Preservation organization

Year innovation began

2006

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Nature.

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Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation? Please describe in one sentence the kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

To provide income for managing the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park and tangible benefits for Buffer Zone communities.

Please write an overview of your project. Include how your approach supports or embodies geotourism or destination stewardship. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the map located on the competition homepage.

The mission of the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme is to deliver a high quality tourism product that supports communities and conservation of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP). This project will establish the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme.
The BJCMNP is located in eastern Jamaica and has an area of 495.2km2. Recognising the site’s global significance for biodiversity and cultural heritage, the Government of Jamaica has just nominated the BJCMNP as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The National Park is managed by the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT/Green Jamaica). Under the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme, JCDT/Green Jamaica will work with the stakeholders to develop existing and new tourism activities, into a form of tourism that sustains this spectacular landscape with its unique natural and cultural heritage, and rich rural lifestyles.
The Programme will be guided by a manual (developed with the stakeholders over the last 2 years) and an Advisory Committee reporting to sustainable tourism clusters around the National Park. The JCDT/Green Jamaica will manage the Programme, ensuring facilitation of community-based tourism, marketing of tour packages that combine Park, private sector and community facilities and services, financial support for conservation and sustainable community development within the Park’s Buffer Zone.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

This project is innovative because of its operational design which integrates civil society, private and public sectors around a conservation and sustainable community development goal. The process of developing the design was participatory and has the ‘buy-in’ of all sectors. The Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme has the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP) as its hub, with several community-based and private sector tourism products around it. The spokes holding these together will be joint tour packages, marketing, conservation and community development programmes. The Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT/Green Jamaica) as the manager of the BJCMNP, will be responsible for the key roles of coordination, facilitation of community-based tourism, marketing and managing the programme, and ensuring conservation and community benefits. Where additional professional services are needed, these will be outsourced. Blue Mountains sustainable development clusters consisting of the various stakeholders will guide the process. The role of the JCDT/Green Jamaica is critical as separately, none of the groups have the interest or capacity to achieve the goal. The JCDT/Green Jamaica as a non-profit with professional capacity and twenty one years experience will work with the partners to ensure the triple bottom-line is met.

IDB/Fomin
Si perteneces a un pais de Latinoamerica y el Caribe tienes la oportunidad de presentar tu iniciativa para acceder a fondos para innovaciones en turismo sostenible del BID/FOMIN (para mayor informacion leer la seccion sobre la oportunidad BID/FOMIN en la pagina principal del Desafio).

Deseo postularme.

Si perteneces a un pais de Latinoamerica y el Caribe tienes la oportunidad de presentar tu iniciativa para acceder a fondos para innovaciones en turismo sostenible del BID/FOMIN (para mayor informacion leer la seccion sobre la oportunidad BID/FOMIN en la pagina principal del Desafio).

Consumidores (viajeros), Operadores de Turismo, Prestatarios de servicios turísticos, Prestatarios de servicios no turísticos (proveedores), Grupos comunitarios autóctonos, Atractivos naturales y culturales.

Indica cuales de estas tematicas cubre tu innovacion (elige todas aquellas opciones que apliquen)

Planificación y Gestión de destinos, Innovación y diversificación en el desarrollo de productos turísticos.

Impact
Describe the degree of success you have had to date. How do you measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact on sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How has it transformed or contributed to the power of place or demonstrated the sustainability of tourism? How does your approach minimize negative impacts?

Neither JCDT/Green Jamaica nor our partner community-based organisations are making significant profits, but the potential is there. This will take longer for the JCDT/Green Jamaica, due to the high cost of managing the Park’s recreation areas in comparison to many community attractions. Already, community members can make an extra few thousand dollars conducting a tour or providing a meal for visitors. The management of the Park’s recreation areas is subsidised by other Park programmes and the JCDT/Green Jamaica.

JCDT/Green Jamaica sets annual targets based on Management Plan objectives. The planning process for the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme, allowed the stakeholders to design a programme that will meet everyone’s needs. The Programme is not officially established, but aspects are being implemented. Regular meetings of clusters of tourism interests and community stakeholders around the three recreation areas allows for feedback on the impact of tourism activities, so that any issues can be addressed. Recent studies indicate that the integration of tourism as a component of wider Park management through community outreach, especially training, is empowering community members. This integrated and community-oriented approach ensures direct benefits to conservation and reduced impact on the most ecologically sensitive sites within the National Park.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your work, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Buffer Zone communities are involved in the Park’s management and tourism planning. Sustainable livelihoods are facilitated, particularly around the Park’s recreation areas. Training is conducted in sustainable tourism such as hospitality, tour guiding and natural history, and is being conducted to promote more sustainable farming practices e.g. organic farming. Community groups have been assisted with proposal preparation and other technical assistance. Community members are considered first for jobs and as service providers. Most Park Rangers are from local communities and the reforestation programme is implemented by local community members. These communities are expressing greater interest in conservation and sustainable development.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Authenticity of both the natural and cultural heritage, and the commitment and passion of the Park staff and community members involved. Direct engagement of the visitors in planning their visit – so they get what they are looking for, and inter-action between visitors, Park staff and community members whether its hiking, talking, planting trees, helping a farmer in his field or helping to prepare a meal.

Describe how your work helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area's cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues.

Through our Programme, travellers are exposed to information about conservation and community development. They see first-hand, it’s not simply about the beauty and interest of the area, but it takes work to maintain and enhance the natural and cultural heritage.

Information is available on the JCDT/Green Jamaica website (www.greenjamaica.org.jm), in the Guide to the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park and brochures, and through interaction with Park staff and local community members.

For local residents, the Park’s Education Programme has a strong outreach through town square meetings, environmental education in the schools and work with local community-based organisations.

Sustainability
How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

The Park’s recreation areas basically run themselves except for supervisory and management level staff, which are subsidised by the JCDT/Green Jamaica, although there are no full-time positions. For community tours, the responsible community member or group is paid (by the visitor through JCDT/Green Jamaica) to cover both their costs and ensure a profit. All 13 full-time staff of the JCDT/Green Jamaica (equivalent to the Park’s staff) are involved directly and indirectly in this initiative, as are the 11 part-time staff at the Park’s two recreation areas - Holywell and Portland Gap on the Blue Mountain Peak Trail. There are 10 community volunteers through the Park’s youth outreach who are involved in tour guiding and school tours to Holywell. For 2008, the budget was JA$2,835,139, our income was JA$2,126,668 and our expenditure was JA$2,253,540. Currently, the exchange rate is 87JA$:1US$. This was the income/expenditure for Holywell and Portland Gap Recreation Areas, but it should be noted that cabins at Holywell were closed from August 2007 to April 2008 as all roofs were lost in Hurricane Gustav. The budget does not include major capital costs.

Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? Is there a potential demand for your innovation?

The initiative has not been fully implemented, but evidence so far indicates that it should be sustainable, and this has been a major focus of its design. Assessment of the current situation indicates a need for capacity building, product development and marketing. Funds are being sought to fully establish the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme, that will address these issues. The approach is one that combines the best of private sector profit-driven and non-profit mission driven practices. It is anticipated that after a three year period, the initiative will be sustainable. Based on the feedback from the national tourism agencies, international organisations and visitors, there is a potential demand for our innovation.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

Limited human resources – we need the staff to fully establish the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme, currently we depend on existing staff to do something extra – which is not efficient and keeps us from achieving our goals.

Marketing – not enough people know about the opportunities available but we do not have the funds for marketing and if we do activities that depend more on staff than funds e.g. attend national tradeshows, we do not have the staff to do the necessary follow up.

Need to renovate and improve some sites, to ensure they are safe, educational and reasonably comfortable.

What is your plan to expand or further develop your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

Funding to fully establish the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme as per the Manual we have developed. This will include staff, marketing, training for community members, product development for sites and formal establishment of the clusters and Advisory Committee to monitor the Programme.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.

The Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT/Green Jamaica) is a non-government organization that was incorporated and registered as a charity in 1988. Our mission is to promote environmental conservation and sustainable development, with particular emphasis on the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP), for the benefit of Jamaica and our people. JCDT/Green Jamaica manages the BJCMNP under agreements with two government agencies – the National Environment and Planning Agency and the Forestry Department. Management of the BJCMNP is guided by its Management Plan for 2005 to 2010, which describes management programmes and objectives, and a Zoning Plan.
The core of natural, undisturbed forest comprises more than fifty percent of the National Park and is designated the Preservation Zone where the management objective is strict conservation. The Recovery Zone lies between this core area and the boundary, and the focus in this zone is mainly on forest restoration. Outside the boundary, a 1km wide band defines the Buffer Zone with about 50 communities and 26,000 residents. Most Park management activities are focused on these Buffer Zone communities, for example, promoting sustainable livelihoods, environmental education in local schools and patrolling the boundary to reduce encroachment and illegal activities.

The preparation of the BJCMNP Management Plan 2005 – 2010 involved significant stakeholder consultation. It was during the development of the Park’s Recreation & Tourism, and Education & Public Involvement Programmes, along with an ecotourism plan for the Park’s main recreation area that the concept for a Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme began to crystallise. As JCDT/Green Jamaica began to implement the Management Plan, communities around the National Park’s recreation areas were targeted. The selection of these areas was for multiple reasons, in particular, these were within locations of natural and cultural importance, that were most threatened by deforestation, and which were frequented by Park staff for visitor management purposes. In some of these communities, JCDT/Green Jamaica was already conducting skills training with youth to enhance their income generating ability. In these and other communities, some groups had initiated tourism ventures e.g. rustic cabins, Maroon museum and trails, and were seeking guidance and assistance with product development and marketing.

JCDT/Green Jamaica saw an opportunity that could be mutually beneficial for Park management and conservation as well as the Buffer Zone communities. This was essentially, to create centres of sustainable commerce and development, related initially to tourism, in Buffer Zone communities closest to the Park’s recreational areas, partnering with communities, private sector and government. With funding mainly from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) JCDT/Green Jamaica prepared a manual for implementation of the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme inclusive of community tourism concept plans and marketing plans and products. Further, 48 persons from 7 communities were trained and 32 achieved certification under Jamaica’s national, basic tourism programme – TEAM JAMAICA. JCDT/Green Jamaica is now seeking funds for the implementation of the manual and establishment of the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Susan Otuokon is the Executive Director of the JCDT/Green Jamaica and Acting Park Manager for the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. She assumed this position in 2002, but between 1990 and 1996 worked there initially as Protected Areas Officer, and later as Programmes Director. Between 1997 and 2002 Mrs. Otuokon worked with several organisations across Jamaica, as a consultant and in full-time positions. Her interest in the practice of protected area management, ecotourism and sustainable community development has led her to pursue Ph.D. research at the UWI to explore these issues from an academic perspective.

Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.

“Misty Bliss” is an annual festival held at Holywell under the banner “mixing mountain pleasures and treasures”, to celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of the National Park. It features local, traditional food, craft and produce – sold by members of the nearest communities; traditional music and dance, including local school groups and the indigenous Maroon communities.

Hike the Cunha Cunha Pass Trail with local tour guides, to explore this trail that saw the military exploits of the Maroons, and later became a market route from south to north coast. The trail ends at Ambassabeth, a cluster of charming, rustic cabins around a comfortable common area where Maroon drumming and delicious food, featuring ground provisions and a variety of fresh-water crustaceans, are enjoyed.

Hike to the highest point in Jamaica, the Blue Mountain Peak (2,256m), with a local tour guide. After dinner and a rest followed by a mug of steaming Blue Mountain Coffee, at a local guest-house, the hike starts at about 1:00am. First up ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ to Portland Gap, a rest stop just within the boundary of the BJCMNP, then on to see the sun rise on the Blue Mountain Peak - an experience of unspeakable beauty.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

Product development, particularly trail establishment and maintenance, as there is relatively little knowledge and experience outside of basic, local knowledge, although three of the Park Rangers have had training through the US Forest and Park Service, but there is not enough knowledge and experience at the community level.

Marketing especially outside Jamaica (our plans currently focus on domestic tourism as it has significant potential and is a good base to build a secure market in changing world).