If you have not been to the Eric Bell Centre for Tennis in Kingston recently, then you should. I guarantee you will have a new view of tennis and its ability to attract more of us to the sport and possibly more tourists to use available facilities in Jamaica.
The centre is just off Marescaux Road, in Cross Roads, by the L.P. Azar building.
Tennis Jamaica has had a re-branding exercise. They were formerly known as the Jamaica Lawn Tennis Association. Christine and Phillip Gore and their administrative team now run the new establishment.
Major renovation took place in June 2006 and they have since hosted the Davis Cup in April 2007, which, according to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), "was a well run tournament". So, with the ITF certification, they have the green light to host more international tournaments, with minor changes.
With the growth of tennis as a sport globally and more tourists travelling for sport purposes, tennis in Jamaica has a wonderful window of opportunity to add to the list of sporting attractions stock in Jamaica and to the capital city, Kingston.
There are further plans for a tennis academy. There is a hunt on for financial partnership to make this venture a success.
While tennis is a minor sport by Jamaica's definition, it has the potential to create impact that can and would be a vital contri-butor to the development of the sport tourism product. The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO) and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) should jump on board to 'get in the game' and promote tennis and its facilities as just one more thing this 'paradise' has to offer.
The Carib and Sport Tourism
The Caribbean has been officially declared the 'cultural centre' of the world; with that in mind, the tourism experts in the region should create policy which aim's at using our cultural products - sport, music, art and entertainment - to drive activity for stay-over visitors. Studies by the University of the West Indies and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation have indicated that visitor arrivals go up when there is a bundle of activities for special times of the year.
We have, as a region, been able to promote and market the respective music festivals. I know there is a greater role for sport to play. Certainly, at the next tourism heads of state/practitioners meeting, the potential of sport tourism should be discussed as an agenda item in a more serious way. I know it has been discussed, but I want more in-depth plans to be put in place with implementation to take place. This will, therefore, call for collaboration among the CARICOM member states; and for countries to put forward their own brand.
St. Kitts author, Peter Adrien, made a presentation to a Caribbean Media Summit in 2006. In a report he stated that "Sport Tourism" calls for a paradigm shift in our conception and deve-lopment of sport in the Caribbean. And this new vision must become part and parcel of our personal, national and regional development vision.
Policy-makers must clearly define the role of recreational and commercial sports in the development strategy. The first is an imperative and forms an integral part of the programme for building a harmonious and productive society, and lays the foundation for the successful growth of the political and economic systems, while the second is selective and targeted towards foreign-exchange earning.