Tourism hope for Port Antonio
The resurgence in cruise ship arrivals to Port Antonio, Portland, appears to be on the horizon, with the town seeing three vessels dock last week - something that has not been seen since 1985.
The so-called renaissance, which has provided tourism industry players, stakeholders, and other interests with a glimmer of hope, comes on the heels of a pronouncement made by Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who told The Gleaner that listed on his agenda is the revival of tourism in Portland.
"Port Antonio and the parish at large is a picturesque beauty,"' said Bartlett.
"Its historic tales cannot be disputed and most of its tourist attraction sites are second to none worldwide. The amazing thing about Portland is that its natural outlook and beauty has not been disturbed - Nonsuch Caves, Somerset Falls, Reach Falls, Rio Grande rafting, Moore Town, and the Blue and John Crow Mountain trails are renowned internationally. Rio Grande rafting is the parish's premiere tourist attraction and arguably Jamaica's oldest."
Bartlett noted that cruise ship arrivals to the resort town are but the beginning of the revival effort, which should see all the players, including hoteliers, craft vendors, operators of attraction sites, and Jamaica Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) members benefiting from the spin-off - therefore encouraging them to invest heavily in their livelihood.
"Port Antonio will be accessible by air, land (road), and sea, which is the ultimate plan for tourism," said Bartlett.
"The North Coast Highway coming into Port Antonio from the west and the South East Coast Highway from St Thomas will allow for smooth and easy traveling for tourists."
He added: "A change in the itinerary will result in Cuba becoming our partner and that could also add to the improvement in tourist arrival."
Bartlett said efforts would be made to create garden and beauty spots along the roadway leading into Port Antonio. Additional rest stops for visitors will be identified and "even the jelly man" vendor will be a part of the tourism product.
"Port Antonio has been lagging behind for far too long."
Bartlett said, "We have already trained several batches of resort police officers, who will assist with monitoring and reducing the likelihood of tourist harassment which, fortunately, has not surfaced in Port Antonio."
Last Tuesday, Port Antonio welcomed the first of three cruise ships, with the other two docking at the Ken Wright shipping pier on Friday and Saturday. Additionally, another cruise ship is scheduled to arrive today, which means that Portlanders, for the first time in three decades, would have welcomed four cruise ships in a one-week period.
... 42-year vendor sees return to glory days
Craft vendor 76-year-old Catherine Henry, who has been plying her trade for 42 years and was among those pleading for the return of cruise ships, as her livelihood was under threat, sported a broad smile when she spoke with The Gleaner.
According to Henry, the signs are positive that serious attempts are being made to take Port Antonio back to its glory days.
"I still remember when Port Antonio got cruise ships seven days per week," said Henry.
She added "Those were the days when ships like Nordic Prince, Sun Viking, Star Ward, Boheme, Vera Cruise, South Ward, and Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras reportedly made one visit) flooded the Boundbrook banana wharf, Ken Wright Pier, and the East Harbour. Everyone in the tourism industry benefited and the town boomed with entertainment, especially at the theatres and nightclubs. This is a positive move on the part of those in charge of the tourism industry."
On Friday, dozens of tourists were spotted at the Errol Flynn Marina drinking beer, while engaging in talks with locals. Visitors were also spotted swimming in the pool at the marina, while some went Rio Grande rafting and others spent time combing through the town of Port Antonio, which now has a new look and is garbage free.