Jamaica seeks partnership with church leaders to develop policy on faith-based tourism

Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett meets church leaders to develop policies on faith based tourism.Moravian Unity Synod 2016/Facebook

The Ministry of Tourism in Jamaica is looking to partner with church groups to boost faith-based tourism.

According to a report by The Jamaica Observer, Minister Edmund Bartlett attended the 43rd Synod of Worldwide Moravian Church to meet with faith leaders and consult about the development of policies that will help promote faith-based tourism, which has been gaining ground in recent years.

In 2011, Jamaica  experienced its first breakthrough in the faith-based tourism market when 4,000 passengers and crew members arrived on the island for the "Cruise with a Cause" stop in Montego Bay. This brought religious leaders and music ministers to the area to engage in community outreach projects.

The cruise, organised by PraiseFest Ministries, generated close to a billion Jamaican dollars worth of revenue aside from the supplies and technical support the visitors provided.

Bartlett said they wished to replicate the benefits derived by the United States when it started facilitating the departure and arrival of 14-16 million people, mostly Christians for faith-based activities. This generates some $300-$500 million revenues annually.

Bartlett said his target of 5 million arrivals in five years seeks to bring in $5 billion for the industry.

"We are excited about the prospects of working with the churches in building out this very important area of tourism and it is going to have more than just the value of bringing visitors here and providing greater earnings for the country," Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said.

The Minister explained that they are currently ironing out the policies that will facilitate a larger group of Christians and religious visitors to the country.

"Certainly our churches have over the years been at the base of faith-based activities, but the churches have not been structured and organised to encourage large visits and pilgrimages. They have not been structured to bring large conventions into Jamaica," he said.