A recent Gleaner hospitality news feature reported that Cuba, Barbados, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina are among the top 10 most gay-friendly destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Not surprising at all, these countries have huge tourism industries, attracting visitors from all over. Cuba, despite its political limitations, has made major strides with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights to the point where it is almost a non-issue now.
I have seen openly gays there, in hotels, and outside. It's not in your face, but no one is bothered. Yes, LGBT groups have great economic power, and the article reports that the LGBT tourism industry is valued a whopping US$200 billion annually.
What a great loss to Jamaica that we cannot be more tolerant, considering that tourism earns more than 50 per cent of our foreign exchange and account for a quarter of all jobs!
We limit ourselves and our potential by virtue of our own prejudices and unnecessary hostility. 'Gay-friendly' does not mean acceptance either, what it means is, we are mature enough, intelligent enough to recognise that diversity is a part of life, and that our customers will come to us in all sizes, shapes and forms.
The article went on to state that there are few properties on the island, five resorts to be specific, which currently list their properties as 'gay-friendly'. If true, this is progress. However, I know of only one such resort that has been gay-friendly, for decades, hospitable to all guests, regardless, and its room occupancy level hovers at nearly 100 per cent at all times, all year!
TRAIN STAFF TO UNDERSTAND DIVERSITY
More properties in Jamaica need to train staff to understand diversity, they will eventually learn. All persons are potential tourists, and our industry leaders must wake up, and realise the world is also changing around us while we continue to limit ourselves.
When Jamaicans go abroad, whether to visit or to live, they adapt so easily, no issues at all, as they learn to live with, play with, and work with LGBT individuals.
I, therefore, don't buy the argument that our people cannot learn to be more tolerant on home turf! Diversity and tolerance should be an integral part of Team Jamaica's tourism training, which is a start. And, yes, we can still hold on to our ethics, morals, religion and even offer prayers for those we choose to judge and condemn!