Discuss the Relevance of Art and Crafts in Tourism.

The local culture in its myriad forms and expressions is an important element of a destination’s uniqueness and appeal often differentiating one destination from another, and thus contributing to destination competitiveness. This differentiation is increasingly more important for destinations seeking to maintain and grow their market share, given the increase in competition globally, as well as the changing consumer partners impacting tourism supply and demand.

Among the most direct and tangible expressions of culture are the local patrimonies such as Arts and Crafts, Music, Dance and Cuisine which are often specific to a particular country, community or social grouping.

Tourist’s appetite for local and handmade ethnologies is widely recognized and continues to be prevalent in the various sub-sectors of the industry. For many Member Countries of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the vast and multi-faceted tourism industry, provides a frequent influx of cultural enthusiasts, adventure seekers, history buffs and world heritage aficionados, which has driven the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), many of which are skills based service enterprises.

These range from entertainment services related to cultural art forms and expressions, to the production of arts and crafts, local gastronomy and cuisine and-traditional skills such as hair braiding and basket weaving. For small entrepreneurs including cultural -performers, vendors, and producers of handcrafts, furnishings, soaps, specialty foods and many other hand-made products, the tourist market offers unlimited sales opportunities, with a diverse range of sales venues as well as visitors eager for “local” culturally-linked and indigenous products.

Despite this potential, market research conducted) by Aid to Artisans (ATA), an international non-profit organization serving the arts and crafts sector, indicate that the region has been largely unable to capitalize 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, remains under-utilized.

This is most evident 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 vendor’s stalls across the region, it is common to find souvenirs, trinkets and other ‘LOCAL’ paraphernalia personalized with the country’s name, flag or other insignia, which are not made in the country of origin. This ability of international suppliers to provide inexpensive, generic product have severely impacted and diminished business opportunities for local craftsmen, both threatening the livelihoods of the Region’s Artisans and the viability of the sector.

More importantly this practice, if it is allowed to continue unheeded, has the capacity to undermine the sustainability, value and ‘relevance’ of local arts and craft, as well as inherent skills and art firms, contributing to an eventual loss of heritage and traditions.

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