I am staying in Ocho Rios for a few days and have been browsing around gift shops and the craft market and it is sad that for a tourist coming to that destination the options will seem at the outset to be many but in reality very few. The reason is that everybody is selling the same thing.
Whether you go into the upscale shopping plaza gift shops or to the downscale craft village, you get the same thing, an oversupply of Bob Marley merchandise like T Shirts, beach towels and bags as well as the same kinds of sculptures and other items. It is obvious that most of the sellers of gift items buy their stock from the same producers.
While I found the sellers in the various establishments friendly and eager to make a sale, I didn’t see a whole lot of selling going on. As popular as Bob Marley is, there is only going to be a limited amount of his merchandise that people are going to be able to buy.
Markets expand through diversification and this is the answer to the problems of market stagnation when everybody is offering the same thing. For example there are many other internationally popular Jamaican artistes whose images could be used for merchandise such as Beenie Man, Sean Paul, Chronixx, Protoje and others. One of the innovative products that I found that was being sold by a few vendors were sets of dominoes with Jamaican images on the back. Vendors need to become more innovative like creating their own brands and unique designs in collaboration with art and craft producers. Linkages could be built with graduates of the Edna Manley School of Art.
This is just one concern about the Jamaican tourist industry that is barely scratching the surface of its vast potential. What is required is alot more out of the box thinking which we desperately need to cultivate more of.
(c) A. Pierre Sobers 2017