Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) manage the recreation areas of Holywell, Portland Gap and Blue Mountain Peak Trail within the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. JCDT is also responsible for other areas of park operations including environmental conservation and sustainable development. Holywell, Portland Gap and Blue Mountain Peak Trail have been part of our business booster programme. Susan Otuokon, Executive Director of JCDT, talks about their business journey as part of the programme.
Holywell is a natural attraction of cloud forest about 853 meters (2800 feet) up in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park with about 4km of nature trails through the forest. There are about 4 hectares (10 acres) of picnic areas with gazebos and barbecue grills as well as a Discovery Centre (mini-museum) and a cafe called Blue Brews Bistro. In addition, there are three cabins for overnight accommodation and space for camping. The site is operated by the JCDT as part of its work in conservation management of the forests of the National Park. Visitation helps generate income to support conservation and garners the interest of our visitors in supporting conservation.
As a result of COVID, visitation dropped by about half and school educational tours stopped. The only reason we did not lose money is because we had increased the entry fees just before the pandemic began. We have still not fully recovered but we are now trying to resume some operations like fundraisers and events at Holywell that had to be paused due to the pandemic. However, we have also seen more first-time visitors since the café opened in mid- 2021 which is good news.
Being part of Big Up Small Business helped our focus. We found the pricing tools and technical advice particularly helpful, and we are using them to guide our approach. We have started a review of our pricing structure, to ensure that activities are priced to allow the business to make a profit and we now have a draft pricing structure in place. We also took part in the risk assessment competition, focusing on the waterfall trail product.
We have implemented new activities as a result of Big Up Small Business. We completed a review of all our product offerings and streamlined them, and we introduced some “pop-up” activities such as a scavenger hunt that has garnered interest from new visitors. We are now working on the marketing and sale of guided trail tours to companies and hotels and will be contracting a Sales & Marketing Officer to help with this. We have also developed a map to support self-guided tour options.
Marketing wise, we are using much more social media marketing and we have seen our following rise as a result. We’ve also launched an online booking platform and are engaging with tour operators to expand marketing and promotion to international tourists. The digital marketing competition helped tremendously with this effort, and we have been expanding on the initiative that was launched as part of that campaign to target domestic tourists. We are also working with eight local communities. We are helping them (with support from the inter-American Foundation) to develop their products and capacity to benefit from tourism. We are supporting their community tourism efforts and facilitating cross-marketing and promotion opportunities. These are communities with rich maroon heritage and tourism has great potential to support their livelihoods too.
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