Sat | Oct 19, 2019

Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock | Many Jamaicans cannot afford a ‘stay-cation’

Published:Wednesday | June 26, 2019 | 12:11 AM

Jamaica is, undoubtedly, a beautiful island. Sadly, however, the majority of its citizens cannot enjoy its amazing offerings because almost every leisurely or ‘touristy’ activity here is ridiculously overpriced.

Recently, I researched Jamaican attractions that I could explore this summer. I started off excitedly, but I was quickly deflated after learning about the exorbitant charges for the onsite experiences.

The most affordable package at one adventure park is US$49 per local. When I contacted another adventure site, their most ‘economic’ package, according to them, is for J$12,000 per person. Their representatives were pleased to inform me that all the quoted prices were substantially discounted for Jamaicans.

A day later, I inquired about the nightly rates for a number of non-all-inclusive hotels. I thought that such places would be significantly cheaper since no meal, except for a basic continental breakfast, in some instances, would be provided.

I called two hotels. Neither of them serves breakfast. However, I was told that their nightly charge would be US$299. Imagine, almost J$40,000 for just a single night, and when day light, not even a cup a bush tea you getting to kill the gas bubbling in your chest!

I later realised, from my subsequent Expedia search, that if I were to top up that US$299 with just US$100 or US$200, I would be able to spend at least three nights in Florida at a highly rated hotel. The entire US$399 or US$499 would cover the roundtrip ticket, hotel accommodation and buffet-style breakfast (without any surcharges). Don’t believe me? Do your own search and you will see.

IT HURTS

Our wondrous local offerings should not be so priced that only tourists can afford same. So many of us work tirelessly to build this country, yet, at the end of the day, we cannot afford a ‘stay-cation’ without a ‘partner plan’ or a high-interest loan that is sure to have us wallowing in debt later. Every darn thing in Jamaica is expensive and absolutely incommensurate with the average earning of the ordinary citizen!

It hurts that the very idea of a stay-cation or vacation sounds like rich people sinting to most Jamaicans. This should never be the case. The average citizen should be able to enjoy this tropical paradise every now and then.

I am so ashamed to admit to my Bajan friend that I have never been to half the number of places that she has during her many visits to Jamaica. She has seen more of Jamaica than I have, and I live here!

We need to create more affordable vacation packages for locals. We could all benefit from an inexpensive getaway every few months. Oh, what wonderful therapy for our bruised emotions and weary bones!

We cannot continue to just survive in Jamaica. We need to live, too!

Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock is an educator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and shawna201@gmail.com.