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Pushing Portland | Chamber wants all-inclusive approach to ensure take-off

Published:Sunday | February 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Visitors enjoy rafting on the Rio Grande in Portland.

There are lingering doubts in Portland of claims by senior government officials that the parish is poised to take-off.

Member of Parliament for West Portland Daryl Vaz and Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett have both been touting the prospects for the parish this year, but their enthusiasm is not yet shared by many residents who have heard these claims before.

Late last year, Vaz expressed excitement at the prospects for the parish, pointing to several projects to improve the infrastructure that are under way or will begin shortly.

"I think Portland is going to have a very good 2017 and beyond, based on the strategic plans being put in place as public-private partnerships and other developments," Vaz told The Sunday Gleaner recently.

Bartlett has been pointing to several plans to improve the attractions in the parish and have more cruise ships calling at its port.

But Daney-Ann Thomas, president of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, has warned that unless an all-inclusive approach is adopted the parish could still be scraping the bottom of the barrel for its share of development for years to come.


left to struggle


"We have been left to struggle on our own, and the morale has always been low, so when we go to our business operators or the general citizenry and say we are fighting for you, there is no tangible proof," Thomas told The Sunday Gleaner recently.

"Whenever there is a development, we are hardly ever consulted, instead we are told what is going to happen to us, we are not allowed to participate in the discussions, and we feel disrespected by whoever is in charge.

"We are usually just invited to the ribbon cutting, swearing in or when it is time for cake ... and we have been saying for several years that TPDCo (Tourism Product Development Company) and the JTB (Jamaica Tourist Board) need to have a proper conversation with us," he added.

The chamber president warned that there could also be some resentment from members of the business community towards the JTB, because over the years, no one has told them why Portland is not being marketed as vigorously as other resort towns have been.

"There is a lot that needs to be done, there is a lot we can achieve, but we must take ownership of our product or we will be having these same discussions 30 years from now," warned Thomas.

Efforts to contact acting executive director of TPDCo Joy Roberts were unsuccessful but another official of the state entity, Marlene Stephenson Dalley, rejected this claim.

"There has been some engagement," said Stephenson Dalley. "There are regular resort board meetings and our representative is always in attendance."

Portland's tourism product was once the envy of the Caribbean, but has since fallen behind more prominent destinations such as Falmouth, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and even Kingston, because of what stakeholders claim is years of neglect.

"I would agree that successive governments have not paid enough attention to rural development in general and this part of Jamaica in particular, and so Portland has fallen squarely into all of this," said Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, member of Parliament for east Portland.

"There are always announcements of 'something in the pipeline' for the 30 years that I am here," added Bloomfield.