Community tourism boom for Fort Clarence
Residents of Hellshire in St Catherine are optimistic that Guardsman Hospitality’s investment in Fort Clarence Beach will transform the sleepy, suburban residential area into Jamaica’s next community tourism destination akin to Treasure Beach in St Elizabeth.
Rose Roberts, a homeowner in the area, is already forecasting that the beach park will be the catalyst for Hellshire’s full foray into community tourism. For her, the overhaul is a positive move aimed at turning around facilities that were “really run-down” and unattractive.
Based on the tenets of the National Community Tourism Policy and Strategy, Roberts said that Hellshire was ready for a tourism thrust because of its strong community governance structures and well-maintained infrastructure and services such as roads, water, and sanitation.
“In terms of a company like Guardsman taking over Fort Clarence, it will be under better management,” she told The Gleaner.
“It means more business for the community, because when I think about it, even with the Airbnb, if Fort Clarence is maintained and is to a certain level, then you will find tourists wanting to come, and there are a lot of homes in Hellshire; a lot of AirBnbs that would want to facilitate that. I think the community will get a positive spin-off.”
Roberts also contended that aside from tourism, the residents of Hellshire, Portmore, would benefit from having within reach a family-friendly place suited for entertainment, gastronomy, and social activities.
The state-owned Urban Development Corporation’s granting of a 25-year lease on the popular beach has stirred a hornet’s nest of criticism and enquiry in some quarters, especially among anti-divestment activists like Gleaner columnist Carolyn Cooper who argue that high prices drive away less-wealthy local folk.
Food and beverage vendors who have been a mainstay at the venue and who had appealed not to lose their foothold at the St Catherine beach during the facelift also called for engagement by the investors.
Like Roberts, University of Technology student Oshane Leon has welcomed the investment, stating that it was long overdue. According to the 24-year-old, he envisions a boom in community tourism and more economic spin-offs for residents.
“This is a very good development. More development on the beach, more tourists on the beach. People doing Airbnb and those things can advertise dem place fi show seh you have world-class beach,” the psychology major said.
Read tomorrow’s Hospitality Jamaica for more on the Fort Clarence Beach Park, which officially opens this summer.