The Devil is in the Details: Understanding Microbusiness Mindsets in Jamaican Tourism

Anne P. Crick
Falmouth is a sleepy town located between the major resort towns of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios in Jamaica. The opening of a cruise port there was hailed as the rebirth of the town. Despite that heady beginning Falmouth has failed to live up to its expectations. Residents and businesspeople in the town are disappointed that tourists do not spend much time or money there and feel that they have been gypped. On the other hand, tourism authorities blame the people of the town for not being ready to take advantage of the opportunities placed before them.

The pattern of citizens feeling that they have not benefitted from tourism is not new. In fact previous research on tourism attitudes in the country suggest that tourism is viewed as a business for rich, brown men (Dunn & Dunn, 2000). People who are neither rich nor brown believe that they are on the margins and many attempt to enter the industry through means that may be deemed as harassment or even illegal.

Curiously there has been little analysis of the ways in which small business people think about entrepreneurial opportunities. Without this understanding the pattern is unlikely to be broken. In this paper we seek to understand more about the micro entrepreneur in tourism. It builds on a previous study in which the author described the opening of a food tour in Falmouth. That paper highlighted the differences between the ways in which microentrepreneurs in Jamaica and the US are likely to think and operate. Differences in national culture, educational levels and entrepreneurial mindsets were highlighted. This paper will now seek to explore those findings.

For the purposes of this study a microentrepreneur is defined as someone with less than ten employees and may include sole entrepreneurs. The study will therefore likely include food vendors, craftspeople and retailers. Questions will seek to develop a portrait of the individual micro entrepreneurs focusing on their education, training and preparation for the business that they entered. We will also seek to identify how they felt about the potential of the cruise port for their business, how they were prepared for responding to that potential and their actual experiences after the port was opened.

The data for the paper will be gathered by indepth interviews with between 10 and 15 small business operators in Falmouth.. They will be selected by using the snowball technique in which participants are used to refer other potential participants for the study. The interviews will be tape recorded, coded and content analysed. Findings will assist in our understanding of the ways in which these microentrepeneurs think and respond to situations and ultimately will help us to understand how best to assist them to take advantage of business opportunities opportunities. It will therefore help to shape an agenda for the role of governmental agencies, NGOs and educational institutions and ultimately enhance the tourism product.