The government plans to oversee a tourism survey to test whether regular Jamaicans are benefiting from the growth in the trade, traditionally seen as a tower of exclusion and wealth.

“We want to identify if there has been a change in public perception of the sector since the last survey and to use the results of the new survey as the baseline for a new national public education campaign,” said the Ministry of Tourism.

It is recruiting a consultant to conduct the public perception survey on behalf of the ministry and its various public bodies, according to tender documents seen by the Financial Gleaner. Over the next 90 days, a consultancy team will embark on the task of sculpting the methodology and conducting the survey and its findings into actionable insights.

Requests for comment on what policy impacts might emanate from the study were unanswered.

The ministry says it wants to create a world-class destination in which “all Jamaicans” benefit from the product.

The survey will test the perception of whether tourism creates a paradox of wealth for the few and not for the many. The issues of restricted access to beaches and tourist concentrations within hotel boundaries are traditional hot topics.

But since the last survey done nearly eight years ago, there are emergent developments and trends affecting the hospitality sector such as the rise of short-term rentals that benefit individual real estate investors and increased linkages to the hotel trade that benefit farmers and agro-processors, among others.

The last survey formed the basis of a public campaign that ended in February 2020.

Jamaica, which counts tourism as its core economic earner, contributes 9.5 per cent of the country’s output, with projections that earnings will top US$4 billion for the first time this year, according to official data. That is good news for hoteliers emerging from the near closure of the sector in 2020 and 2021. But what about regular Jamaicans? The last survey in December 2015 to January 2016 indicated that Jamaicans felt more akin to spectators to the growing sector than beneficiaries.

“Despite this increase in earnings and general growth in the sector … many Jamaicans neither felt included in the process nor felt the growth from the sector,” said the background information found in the tender document inviting bids from consultants.

More than half of all the respondents interviewed in the 2015-16 survey thought the Ministry of Tourism was not doing enough to engage communities in the drive to enhance Jamaica’s tourism product. Conversely, just one-third of all persons felt that their community was actually benefiting from tourism. Additionally, three-quarters of Jamaican respondents felt that locals are treated differently, that is, not as well as tourists.