Thu | Sep 28, 2023

Trench Town rocked by tourism slowdown

COVID hangover cripples business in late music icon’s Kingston hometown

Published:Monday | February 7, 2022 | 12:06 AMSharlene Hendricks/Staff Reporter
Oswald Comrie, cultural ambassador at the Trench Town Culture Yard located in Trench Town, Kingston, shows one of the many craft items available there.
Oswald Comrie, cultural ambassador at the Trench Town Culture Yard located in Trench Town, Kingston, shows one of the many craft items available there.
The happy face of Miguel Campbell, a craft vendor at the Trench Town Culture Yard, is a contrast of sorts with the bleak state of commerce because of the plunge in tourist traffic.Left: A statue of Bob Marley in Trench Town, where he once lived.
The happy face of Miguel Campbell, a craft vendor at the Trench Town Culture Yard, is a contrast of sorts with the bleak state of commerce because of the plunge in tourist traffic.Left: A statue of Bob Marley in Trench Town, where he once lived.
Donnett Dowe, tour manager and owner of the Talking Blues Hostel, says her business has been hit by the downturn in tourism.
Donnett Dowe, tour manager and owner of the Talking Blues Hostel, says her business has been hit by the downturn in tourism.
A statue of Bob Marley in Trench Town, where he once lived.
A statue of Bob Marley in Trench Town, where he once lived.
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Muted celebrations at the Trench Town Culture Yard museum on Saturday, the eve of the birthday commemoration of late reggae legend Bob Marley, was a stark contrast to the busloads of tourists that the Kingston attraction usually attracts. That was...

Muted celebrations at the Trench Town Culture Yard museum on Saturday, the eve of the birthday commemoration of late reggae legend Bob Marley, was a stark contrast to the busloads of tourists that the Kingston attraction usually attracts.

That was especially true in February, Reggae Month.

But COVID-19 guidelines requiring fully vaccinated visitors to quarantine for eight days, unless vacationing within the Resilient Corridor, have dashed activities planned for the global icon’s birthday, and has almost crippled the fledgling bed and breakfast industry in the inner-city community.

The requirements have been in place since the safe reopening of the tourism sector in June 2020, and had left stakeholders of Kingston’s tourism product disgruntled that sections of the capital city had been left out of the Resilient Corridor.

“There are no tours coming into Kingston, and it’s not just Culture Yard and Trench Town that’s feeling it. All the hostels in Kingston are feeling it; Kingston on a whole,” tour manager and owner of the Talking Blues Hostel at the Trench Town government yard compound on First Street, Donnette Dowe, told The Gleaner on Saturday.

The usual merriment associated with Marley’s birthday was also missing because entertainment events are banned in Jamaica – part of the coronavirus hangover that has kept the industry in hibernation because of intermittent outbreaks.

Establishing a favourable COVID bubble on the north coast and sections of the south, except Kingston, is not fair, said Dowe. That’s because Kingston is the capital and the satellite communities ringing the city represent a key cog in the music Mecca.

The Air BnB operator disclosed that a few tourists have ventured outside the Resilient Corridor and visited Trench Town, but those numbers remain critically low.

“I am barely keeping afloat now because I can’t pay the insurance. No business coming in. Normally, the place would be packed with people because it’s the tourist season. We would have different groups coming in from different countries,” said Dowe.

“But now everybody is going to Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, and we’re hardly getting any visitors in Kingston. Only those who are conducting business can enter Kingston.”

Dowe said two visitors to Trench Town from Ocho Rios, St Ann, reported that the hotel at which they were staying discouraged them to explore the island. That sort of feedback, said Dowe, hurts tourism efforts in the city.

Last November, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett indicated that the Government’s travel restrictions for Kingston were not likely to change any time soon.

Attempts to get a comment from Bartlett on Kingston’s place in the south coast Resilient Corridor were unsuccessful.

But Opposition Spokesperson for Tourism Janice Allen, who spoke with The Gleaner on Saturday, insisted that an update from the Ministry of Tourism was necessary, given the cultural significance of February as Reggae Month.

“It would be good to get more understanding and further updates and clarity from the ministry, to see where things are and if any amendments have been made, and if none, then why?” said Allen.

“I think those questions have to be posed to the authorities like the Tourism Product Development Company or the Jamaica Tourist Board. And it is my hope that as revisions are made to the restrictions, that all of those elements are taken into consideration,” said Allen.

sharlene.hendricks@gleanerjm.co