Major development plans for Negril

MAJOR plans, including an additional 5,000 hotel rooms, are on the drawing board for the development of Negril over the next five years. Concurrently, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has hinted at Negril being given a status that will remove it from the dual management it now has between Hanover and Westmoreland.

Top-level discussions have started between multiple government ministries and stakeholders in Negril on aspects of the development to be rolled out over time. In the meantime, with tourism being a critical component, Bartlett on Friday spoke of some things to come as he gave the keynote address at the unveiling of a picturesque, multicoloured Negril welcome sign at the eastern end of the resort town dubbed the Capital of Casual.

The $12-million sign features a layby and walkway, retaining wall, landscaping, and the fabrication of letters in red, green, and gold, reflecting the vibe of Negril. It comes with solar lighting, which helps with visibility at nights and sustainability.

Tourism Product Development Company Ltd (TPDCo) Executive Director Wade Mars termed it the JAM-ICONIC Photo experience and, like him, Bartlett anticipates that in addition to adding to the aesthetic of the resort, the sign will act as a catalyst to attract greater foot traffic to the area.

The tourism executives said research has shown that accessible photo experiences within destinations provide visitors with an additional incentive to travel longer and further to capture these scenic shots as part of their vacation experience. It is therefore intended that the existence of these sites will also provide the home destination with user-generated content for marketing, which has a multiplier effect in attracting audiences.

TPDCo, for which the mandate is ‘Transforming and Enhancing the Tourism Product’, has mapped out a programme to boost tourism within rural communities and add aesthetic appeal to resort areas using the JAM-ICONIC photo experiences to highlight protected areas such as natural skylines; national parks and gardens such as the Cockpit Country and the Blue Mountains; destination areas like Negril; panoramic views of Jamaica’s historic plains; as well as waterways and towns.

The plans being pursued for Negril’s growth have been welcomed by president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce Richard Wallace; Member of Parliament for Hanover Western Tamika Davis; mayor of Lucea, Councillor Sheridan Samuels; deputy mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, Councillor Danree Delancey; and secretary/manager of the Negril/Green Island Area Land Authority Althea McKenzie-Stewart.

Negril has long enjoyed a special place in the hearts of visitors, and with Jamaica making rapid strides in its recovery from the fallout triggered by the novel coronavirus pandemic Bartlett said the resort has been making a spectacular contribution, pulling in about one-third of the more than US$3 billion earned by the industry so far this year. He further shared that Jamaica had its strongest and best-ever summer tourism season with the one just ended.

Bartlett said there is to be a holistic development of Negril but stressed the need for the resort to be rid of crime and other social issues that have been rearing their ugly heads in recent times.

On the cards for further development are close to 5,000 new rooms to include a 1,000-room hotel at Rhodes Hall, a new property at Ocean Point, and expansion of the Princess, Palladium, Sandals, and Beaches properties.

With a commitment to the development of public spaces of Negril Bartlett said, as a start, the existing beach park is to be transformed, patterning Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay but not quite as elaborate. He said the proposed plan has the support of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and that it is part of a bigger push to create appealing public parks in resort areas “for the benefit of Jamaicans while inviting visitors to enjoy them”.

He said the greatest threat to the continued growth and development of tourism and Negril as a community is public order.

“That is why we established a destination assurance policy strategy, and we are trying to build with you destination management so that we can bring all the partners together,” Bartlett said.

The minister said restoring order should not be seen as fighting against the poor as they can become wealthy if they do things properly and in an orderly way.

“We are not in the business of celebrating poverty and causing you to remain poor. That is not my business. My business is to transform you from poverty into prosperity,” said Bartlett.

To accomplish this, he said, investment will be made in training that will build the capacity to think and reason.

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