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Falmouth needs expansion

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 6:54 PMKarrie Williams
Falmouth Post Office
Falmouth Water Square
Janet Silvera Photo The Courthouse in Falmouth

Amid growing concern over the diversion of millions of tourism dollars from the cruise shipping town of Falmouth, Trelawny, to other resort areas; stakeholders are renewing calls for an urgent expansion of the town to facilitate improved commercial activities.

Currently, the plans that are on the agenda to facilitate the town's expansion include a removal of the vendors market and the transportation centre from their current locations at the interior of the town to the outskirts, heading away from Falmouth towards the direction of Martha Brae, along Market Street.

According to Garth Wilkinson, Falmouth's mayor, these plans have been around long before the 2011 opening of the town's cruise pier. However, Wilkinson claims that due to inept marketing of Falmouth as a tourism destination, the plans for expansion never materialised, as tourists were diverted elsewhere.

"What we want to do is move the town in a particular direction going towards Martha Brae, for ease of commerce. Moving the market would be the precedent for everything else because we could not even declare the town a resort town until we move the market," Wilkinson said.

"When Falmouth pier was first opened back in 2011, the then Minister of Transport and Works, Mike Henry's negotiations were to get the tourists to move from Falmouth to Montego Bay or into Ocho Rios. They marketed Falmouth as 25 minutes from Montego Bay and 35 minutes from Ocho Rios. Falmouth was not sold as a destination and we lost out on the initial visitors.

"What we are grappling with now, all of that money was in place in 2011. In fact, the commitment that was given to the parish council was that the market and the transportation centre would have been relocated before the pier opened, but it was never honoured," the mayor added.

With Falmouth now said to be bursting at its seams, largely due to an influx of vendors coming into the town to harvest its tourism opportunities, Dr Lee Bailey, Montego Bay businessman and operator of Caribbean Cruise Shipping and Tours, told Hospitality Jamaica that swift action was needed to improve the town's appeal to visitors, so locals can in their own right, benefit more directly from the cruise business.

"A whole series of issues need to change because currently the people in Falmouth are not directly benefiting from the huge amount of tourists that are going there," Dr Bailey said. "No town has ever experienced that large amounts of tourists in Jamaica that is being exposed to Falmouth at the moment. On any given day, you have up to 12,000 visitors, including crew. Anytime you can have the ratio of tourist matching the population, persons should benefit significantly, indirectly or directly."

Meanwhile, Wilkinson shared a vision to not only have the town of Falmouth appealing to tourists, but also to the local population, which has grown tremendously within the last four years, since the pier opened.

"Over 4,000 homes have been added to the parish over the past four years, and all these households in Holland Estates, Stone Brook and Florence Hall don't come into Falmouth to shop. They prefer to go all the way to Ironshore or Montego Bay; so we have to find a way to attract the persons who live in our parish to actually do business in our parish," Wilkinson said.

Siding with the mayor, Dr Bailey pointed out that it was also very important to discuss all developmental plans for the town with the residents of Falmouth, prior to their enactment. He is also of the view that the current market site should be preserved for its historical value.

"As far as that market is concerned, it's a historical site and that should have a large museum in there and entertainment on a daily basis. However, they are not to attempt to do this without the people of Falmouth involved in it, the people have to buy into it, this is very important," he stressed.