“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” – John 6:51

The event – the nineteenth version of the Caribbean Media Exchange for Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), since its inception nine years ago over which period all events were organised by Bevan Springer and his respective teams. The occasion – pre-dinner cocktails last Friday night; the person – a relatively young hotel manager who was our host at dinner; his question – “Is this your first visit to Jamaica, Sir?”; my answer – “Oh no! I think I can safely say that my first visit to Jamaica was long before you were born, some 50 years ago (almost to the day)”. He concurred.

My first visit to Jamaica was indeed in September 1960 when I entered the then University College of the West Indies at Mona to begin my further education. I landed at the Palisadoes airport – this time the Norman Manley airport; I travelled by BWIA – this time by Caribbean Airlines; the aircraft then was probably a Vickers Viscount – today a Boeing 737; on arrival I fended for myself, this time VIP treatment; then, I wended my way to my accommodation at the student dorm – this time I was ushered to a complimentary hotel suite. Such is occasioned by the passage of time.

Incidentally, one of my first recollections in 1960 was the beautiful Blue mountains – this time they were nowhere to be seen because of still overcast conditions as a result of the weather system which drenched Jamaica last week and which unfortunately left death and destruction in its path.

The CMEx organisers and Jamaican tourism authorities were concerned but the weather abated in Kingston even though other parts of the country were still affected – the CMEX show went on but dampened by the absence of some registered participants and entertainers, who were not resident in the Kingston area, and whose progress to Kingston was severely impeded due to landslides, damaged bridges and water, water everywhere!

We arrived on schedule on Thursday, indeed ahead of schedule.  There were a few of our colleagues, however, who travelled from New York by Air Jamaica but who did not arrive until the wee hours of Friday morning, due to a similar weather system which drenched New York and a diversion to meet the needs of a sick passenger. Our colleagues were very impressed by the pilot’s statement of safety first for the airline.  Of course, Caribbean Airlines and Air Jamaica are: “On our way to One Caribbean airline”. Their slogan says: “Caribbean Airlines and Air Jamaica offer the best value and the best travel experience. Come fly with us”.  I certainly will.

At CMEx there were about 60 overseas visitors and forty registered local participants.  The theme was “Tourism: Linkages for Growth”. After the stage was set by Bevan Springer, President CMEX Inc.; Lelei Lelaulu, Vice President; and Dr. Noel Brown from Friends of the UN and Chairman of the opening session; the keynote address was delivered by Mr. John Lynch, Chairman, Jamaica Tourist Board, followed by a dynamic question and answer session. The topics explored in plenary were: Diaspora partnerships; “Looking Good – Speaking Easy” by professional Image coaches; Faith Tourism Linkages; Cultural Linkages in Jamaica; Culture and Cuisine by the Trinidad & Tobago Tourism Development Company; Tourism and Education led by UWI and Fordham University; Convergence Media links; the Jamaica Vision by Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett.

There were two Roundtable interactive dialogue sessions involving all participants. The first covered the topics: medical tourism, agricultural and other linkages; faith tourism; and Diaspora linkages; the second covered the topics: protection of the environment; health & wellness; the youth; tourism entrepreneurship; and the way forward to CMEx XX.

At the Awards dinner on Sunday night, the mentalist Haim Goldenberg was live on stage; various media awards were presented to media professionals. Special awards were presented to: Dr. the Hon. Ewart Brown, Premier of Bermuda, 2010 CMEx World Leadership Award and 2010 CMEx Exemplar Award to The Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Jamaica.

There were excellent presentations on the “real” sustainable tourism products in Jamaica. The first was by Cohen Henriques of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Jamaica. He is a Jamaican national and has had a long career in a wide range of fields including farming and manufacturing.  He now runs a real estate management company. He has organized numerous international conferences in Kingston in the fields of Archaeology, Jewish Community and Jewish Heritage. He has also co-founded Eastern Attractions Ltd, an NGO that develops community-based recreational facilities in his native Parish of St. Thomas.

The second was by Juliet Gordon, Managing Director of Olde Jamaican Tours which offers specially designed tour packages for your relaxation while sharing with you the rich history and culture of Jamaica.  These tours take you to historical sites in Jamaica, specialising in churches and other culturally important locations.

I was extolling the virtues of the E-Team’s Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation’s thrust to make Barbados “The #1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020”.   There was an immediate call for Jamaica to form a C-Team to transform Kingston into the “The Cultural Capital of the Caribbean”.