'Hip Strip' rebirth - PM wants Montego Bay stretch to outshine others around the world
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has accepted that the famed Gloucester Avenue 'Hip Strip' in Montego Bay, St James, is crying out for help and needs urgent attention.
Holness made the disclosure yesterday during the official opening of the island's newest resort, the 146-room Royal DeCameron Cornwall Beach Resort, in Jamaica's tourism capital.
"The tourism product is growing, it has expanded. However, the supporting infrastructure, which is over 50 years old, cannot sustain the next growth sprout," said Holness, as he urged stakeholders to join his administration in its thrust to bring the product to first-world levels.
Holness said the Montego Bay Hip Strip could be like similar places across the world, "whether Coco Cabana, Brazil or City Walk, Miami".
"We have the potential to be better than all of them, but it requires the stakeholders, including the minister of tourism, members of parliament, the local government and the developers, including the owners of properties who may not see the necessity of using these properties in the strategic development thrust."
The Hip Strip is seeing a renewal, with the opening of the Royal DeCameron Cornwall, the renaming and rebranding of the Gloucestershire Hotel, which is now Deja Resort, the expansion of the Sea Gardens Hotel and the birth of Spanish Court Montego Bay and Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records.
Plans are also in place for Margaritaville and the former Coral Cliff Gaming Lounge.
"Already US$11 million in funding has been allocated for the removal of all cable wires lining the strip to be placed underground, while another US$35 million will be used for 'streetscaping', giving the area a nice finish," Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett announced.
He said his dream is to see the Hip Strip - beginning as far as the Dump-Up Beach Park, downtown Montego Bay, and ending at the Dead End, Kent Avenue - offering a series of experiences, which include entertainment, food, and shopping.
Bartlett said the strip should remind visitors of City Walk in Orlando. "So we will be making our City Walk in Montego Bay."
According to the tourism minister, the Royal DeCameron will be the centrepiece of this exciting refocus.
Excited about the prospects for the new property, DeCameron's president, Fabio Villegas, lauded his company's best assets, his staff, as the ones who empower and encourage the organisation to forge ahead.
"The quality of the people is the most important infrastructure," said Villegas, as he added that no matter how fabulous and beautiful the property was, it is the warmth of the Jamaican people that causes his guests to return.
DeCameron operates three hotels on the island - two in Montego Bay and one in Runaway Bay, St Ann, with resorts in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Haiti, and Peru.
Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach Resort generated 100 direct jobs, 200 indirect jobs and had an investment of US$24.8 million.