Renowned world-class attractions such as Dunn’s River Falls, Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove have served to position Jamaica as arguably the Caribbean’s premier tourist destination.
Add to these a new state-of-the-art fishing village being developed in Ocho Rios, St. Ann by the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) at a cost of $220 million, and it could prove difficult to dispute this argument.
The PAJ’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Professor Gordon Shirley, says the soon-to-be-completed facility, which many sector interests are describing as “one of a kind in the Caribbean”, will provide an extraordinarily huge boost for Jamaica’s already vastly flourishing tourism product.
He argues that the addition of another signature world-class facility will ensure that “we can say, with almost no fear of contradiction, that we are the attractions capital of the Caribbean”.
“Having Fisherman’s Beach in the mix has elevated the tourism fortunes of Ocho Rios and, by extension, Jamaica to levels we have never seen before. Where else can boast of having these kinds of quality attractions and world-class facilities,” the PAJ President contends.
He was speaking at a recent graduation ceremony for persons who were trained in hospitality management by the Tourism Product Development Company, and who will work at the fishing village’s gift shops and restaurants.
Professor Shirley’s conviction is buoyed by overwhelming endorsements from a number of tourism stakeholders, particularly cruise-line interests.
“We are expecting this facility, which will be occupied and operated (through a collaboration) of local business people and fishermen, to live up to its billing as a major attraction,” Professor Shirley adds.
Senior Civil Engineer and Procurement Specialist with the PAJ, Leonard Bailey, says it was always intended to transform the fishing village into a state-of-the-art facility that could revolutionise Ocho Rios’ tourism fortunes.
“We have been literally working around the clock, hoping to meet all our deadlines. We divided the project into two phases, with the intention of getting phase one (completed) as soon as possible,” he points out.
St. Ann’s Bay Mayor, Councillor Michael Belnavis, says there is no doubt that the fishing village will generate significant foreign exchange for the economy and greatly enhance the aesthetics of Ocho Rios.
He contends that the PAJ’s stance to entrust locals with the responsibility of the facility’s management “is very important” as “we all feel that tourism is for everyone”.
Mr. Belnavis, who is Councillor for the Ocho Rios Division of the St. Ann Municipal Corporation, emphasises that “I am all about employment and what is in the best interest of the people”.
“I have always maintained that Ocho Rios, with Dunn’s River Falls, Mystic Mountain, Dolphin Cove and now Fisherman’s Beach as major drawing cards, has the potential to be one of the premier tourism hotspots in the world,” he adds.
That project will be complemented by the PAJ’s upgrading of the neighbouring Reynolds Pier, which has commenced and is being transformed into a multipurpose facility at a cost of approximately US$20 million.
There are also plans to build a promenade from the pier through the fishing village to Main Street in Ocho Rios.
Mr. Belnavis, who says he is confident that the PAJ will meet all project completion deadlines, indicates that “I am happy with everything I have been hearing, and I know the people will benefit”.
Meanwhile, President of the Sailor’s Hole Fishermen Benevolent Society, Orville Grant, welcomes the PAJ’s vision, adding that the village will provide an opportunity for local fishermen to have a ready market and conducive business environment for their produce.
“What I am happy about is that… we have been a part of all the discussions… and they are taking the welfare of the fishermen into consideration,” he says.
By: Garwin Davis