Caribbean network for artisans in tourism
A REGIONAL NETWORK OF ARTISANS in tourism in the Greater Caribbean has been set up in recognition of the vital role played by the sector as a conduit for social and economic growth and its contribution to product development.
The Trinidad and Tobago-based Association of Caribbean States (ACS) has partnered with the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to support the establishment of the network which will also seek to leverage opportunities for trade and entrepreneurship generated by the industry for the artisans sector.
“The network has been conceived as a private-public partnership forum for ongoing networking, co-opoeration and dialogue among the artisans and other stakeholders related to the sector,” an ACS statement said, “and will support training and the exchange of knowledge and best practices to contribute to business skills development and the professionalisation of the artisan sector in the Greater Caribbean.”
The initiative to set up the network stemmed from a two-day workshop and symposium organised by the ACS for October 23 and 24 last year in Colombia targetting women artisans and entrepreneurs in tourism.
Attended by 21 participants from 15 countries, it sought to document the needs and challenges affecting the growth and productivity of artisans.
According to the ACS, it was revealed that there was a need for more hands-on training in business management and product development; that artisans were constrained by limited information about buyer interests, consumer standards and purchasing practices; faced challenges to obtain financing to grow and/or improve their business; and desired more direct access to sales opportunities, particularly regional and international craft fairs.
“The desire to increase linkages with other artisans from the region for the trade of goods, for the purchase of raw materials and for joint manufacturing and/or promotion efforts was listed among the top priorities,” the ACS said.
It said sales of locally made products to tourists and tourism businesses offered an important source of international exchange.
Additionally, the ACS said, a successful handicraft sector leverages business growth in a variety of related sectors, ranging from raw material supply, manufacturing, and agricultural production to transportation, retail outlets and export management. It also strengthens cultural traditions and entertainment offerings, which in turn contribute to the diversity and authenticity of a country’s overall tourism product.
“A significant objective and expected benefit of this initiative is to generate market opportunities for regional culturally linked products, and contribute to increases business for ‘small’ entrepreneurs, particularly women from indigenous and rural communities who predominate the production chain.”
Tourists’ appetite for local and hand-made ethnologies, the ACS noted, is well documented and provides a means of channelling revenues from tourism back into national and local economies.
For many member states, the vast and multi-faceted tourism industry provides a frequent influx of cultural enthusiasts, adventure-seekers, history buffs and world heritage aficionados, eagre for “local” culturall-linked and indigenous products.
For small entrepreneurs, including cultural performers, vendors and producers of handicraft, furnishings, soaps, specialty foods and many other hand-made products, the tourist market offers unlimited sales opportunities, with a diverse range of sales venues.
But, the ACS said, research indicated that despite this potential, the region has been largely unable to capitalise on the economic growth opportunities created by tourism and thus the full socio-economic potential of the industry in generating linkages which leads to growth in ancillary sectors, remained underutilised.
“This is most prevalent in the market for arts and crafts and souvenirs, where currently, the majority of products available for purchase are sourced from foreign nations. In many vendors’ stalls across the region, it is common to find souvenirs, trinkets and other ‘local’ paraphernalia personalised with the country’s name, flag or other insignia, which are not made in the country of origin. (AB)