The Craft Unit at the Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo) hosted a successful craft fair on Thursday December 14, 2017 at the Whitter Village Promenade in Ironshore, St. James. The fair which kept to its “Uniquely 876” theme, showcased handmade craft items from nearly 30 local craft producers who participated in the event.
The objectives of the craft fair, to promote Jamaica as an ideal destination, improve the country’s brand image, as well as to generate income for the craft producers were achieved as patrons gathered at the venue to view and purchase the pieces. The items which included sculptured pieces, furniture, handbags and jewelry are some of the work of Jamaica’s talented artists whose aim is to provide visitors with a visual representation of Jamaica’s culture through art and craft.
Dr. Andrew Spencer, Executive Director of TPDCO highlighted the importance of the craft industry and the impact it has on the country’s thriving tourism sector. “It (Craft) demonstrates the colourfulness of our people. Many of the things we do are intangible and while we strive to give our visitors a memorable experience through the many activities we offer, craft allows them to take a piece of our culture with them.” He said.
The authenticity of the Jamaican tourism product is usually reinforced through the creation of unique items from the local producers.
“When the guests visit our country they can choose from a variety of things, as we consider the individual tastes of our buyers. We also have to consider the millenials who wish to come to our country and get what is truly ours and not something made elsewhere” He added.
TPDCo, through its craft department continues to create initiatives to foster growth of the local craft sector. According to Dr. Spencer, future plans, as early as 2018 include a partnership with the HEART Trust NTA and the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts to provide certification programmes for local craft producers. Other TPDCo lead initiatives include training programmes. A recent Montego Bay training saw fifty persons participating in a six week session in the basics of craft, and practical sessions which engaged participants in coconut shell craft and the art of tie-dye, some of which were on display at the craft fair.
The move to promote locally made craft items comes from concerns of mass importation of souvenirs from overseas which affects the authenticity of the culture and tourist offerings. This in turn affects the feasibility of the craft sector.
Dr. Spencer encouraged the craft producers to progress as TPDCo works to improve the craft sector. “You have to be ahead of the game and develop new skills. You should be an example of persons who are always producing new things and refining your skills, and in light of our Tourism Service Excellence Awards, you should aim to provide excellence through both the tangible and intangible services you provide.” Said Dr. Spencer