Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Portland to get a boost

Published:Tuesday | January 3, 2017 | 12:00 AMGareth Davis


Years of neglect by successive governments, which has resulted in an economic downturn in Port Antonio are seemingly at an end, with tourism minister Edmund Bartlett pointing to better days ahead.

Once a booming tourist resort town and the envy of the Caribbean, Port Antonio, the cradle of tourism, has experienced a nosedive since the pulling out of cruise ships belonging to Norwegian and Caribbean cruise lines, bringing what used to be a vibrant and booming tourism sector to a halt, further crippling the hotel sector and other businesses.

But with the expected upgrading of the Ian Fleming International airport to accommodate regional jets, coupled with the schedule expansion of Dragon Bay hotel, the future appears bright for anxious Portland residents, business operators, and other stakeholders, who for decades have prayed for a piece of the pie.

"Like everyone else, I anxiously await those developments to come on stream," said Member of Parliament for Eastern Portland Dr Linvale Bloomfield.

He added: "While I am optimistic about the developments, I remain guarded, as I would very much prefer to see some form of indication that this is going to happen. I am hoping that those directly involved in the project will make some pronouncement and to provide us with a timeline as to when the project(s) will begin. Undoubtedly, Dragon Bay hotel and its upgrading will create much needed employment."

According to the MP, owners of the attraction sites in the parish need to ensure that their facilities are up and running to accommodate or capitalise on the expected development. He noted that while the development will not take place overnight, stakeholders and other interests should be prepared to grasp the much anticipated economic and financial opportunities.

Only recently Bartlett described Port Antonio as a resort town with full tourism potential, which will once again be realised with the expected development. Bartlett also highlighted a number of tourist attractions, including Somerset Falls, Reach Falls, Boston Jerk Centre, Long Bay beach, Rio Grande rafting, and the Sea Cliff Resort as pristine facilities that can easily captivate the hearts and minds of visitors and locals.

Mayor of Port Antonio, Paul Thompson, also admitted that he is awaiting the start of the developments, which will impact the lives of ordinary Portlanders, who have been made to suffer for too long despite the many promises made by successive governments.