Pushing Port Antonio - Bartlett projects increased visitors for Portland town this season
Tourism minister Edmund Bartlett is projecting a bright future for Port Antonio, Portland, this winter tourist season.
According to Bartlett, while Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Negril are expected to get the lion's share of the business throughout the winter tourist season, Port Antonio, too, will see some strong action.
He said Port Antonio will continue to be a popular getaway for tours and excursions, in addition to being an attractive draw for those seeking "thrills and adventure tourism".
Bartlett pointed to the popular Somerset Falls as an excursion spot that continues to hold its own, adding that a lot of the destination management companies have started to make Port Antonio an integral part of their itineraries.
"Port Antonio has its own kind of uniqueness that will always make it a very attractive destination. I am the first to tell you that it will not happen overnight, but we are doing everything we can to also get Port Antonio in the mix," Bartlett told The Sunday Gleaner.
He pointed out that Port Antonio is poised to receive some of the smaller boutique ships and discussions have been ongoing between the Port Authority of Jamaica and the cruise lines to get consistent calls to the resort town.
"While mega-liners are too big to get into Port Antonio, what we find is that the boutique ships are tailor-made for that kind of market," said Bartlett.
The tourism minister argued that "pound for pound" Port Antonio has as many, if not more, attractions as any of the other resort areas, noting that it is very close to being "the ideal vacation getaway".
He pointed to the Ian Fleming International Airport in Boscobel, St Mary, which is to undergo a major runway expansion, making it easier to accommodate larger planes, as a potential game changer for Port Antonio.
"The Ian Fleming expansion will now open up new opportunities for a different type of aircraft to come in," said Bartlett.
"We will now be able to accommodate the Lear Jets and the ATR types, and which will make Port Antonio more accessible."
Bartlett said that this will also open up opportunities for villas and small hotel operators in the resort town as operators of these facilities can now use the connectivity access as a major promotional tool.
"For years, the complaint has always been that Port Antonio is too difficult to access," said Bartlett. "This has made it very difficult to market the town as visitors were more keen on going to the other areas."
He added that Port Antonio is now able to compete more effectively and should see an increase in its stop-over arrivals.
"The ministry of tourism has always been big on Port Antonio and is very happy with the latest developments," said Bartlett.
He pointed to the recent announcement by Sandals International Resorts to renovate and upgrade the Dragon Bay Hotel as another plus for the tourism fortunes of Port Antonio.
Bartlett said plans are also well advanced for an annual coffee festival in the Buff Bay Valley, another attractive draw which should generate a lot of interest in Portland.
"As it relates to Somerset Falls, which is a picturesque beauty, recent renovations have added to its natural look and ambience. It has officially reopened to the public, after closing down for more than a year, and this will provide tourists with a real experience with nature's lush vegetation.
"Sea Cliff resort and Cliff Hanger restaurant in Long Bay is also a latest addition to Portland's tourist attraction, with its 15 panoramic vacation rooms neatly perched on a cliff, and with nature's beauty floating in the background," said Bartlett.