Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Growth & Jobs | Game fishing : A tourism game changer?

Published:Tuesday | October 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
From left: Peter Cowan, tournament director for the 54th annual Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament; Robert ‘Bobby’ Stewart, director, Game Fish Events; Laurel Whyte, JN Bank’s events specialist; Maxim Rochester, chairman of the Sir Henry Morgan Angling Association; Denzil Wilks, general manager, Sports Development Foundation; and Machelle Evans, brand officer, The Best Dressed Chicken. They were toasting the 54th launch of the Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament, which was held at JN Fund Managers, Belmont Road in New Kingston.

Denzil Wilks, general manager of the Sports Develop-ment Foundation, says Jamaica could benefit economically from sports such as game fishing if it strengthens its linkages with tourism.

He was speaking at the launch of the 54th Annual Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament at JN Fund Managers on Belmont Road in New Kingston last Thursday. Close to 150 local and international anglers will participate in the tournament from October 25-29.

"Jamaica is a massive brand. Angling is a sport and sports is one of the main reasons why Jamaica is the brand par excellence that it is," he told anglers and sponsors attending the launch.




He recommended that organisers look carefully at melding the sport with other aspects of Brand Jamaica, such as music, to achieve an even richer product. Calling the sport a "diamond in the rough," he underscored its potential to fuse other elements of the Jamaican culture and even other sports.

"How many live shows and music festivals will be staged as part of the tournament, showcasing the best of our reggae?" he questioned.

"Sometimes what is needed is an outsider to recognise the possibilities of linking the variety of products that we have in this country of ours, and to package and present them to the world in such a way that we will keep them marvelling, " he added.

Similarly, Steve Distant, chief of retail sales at JN Bank, one of the major sponsors of the tournament, highlighted the need for a stronger connection between game fishing and the country's tourism product.

He noted that marlin tournaments have consistently attracted anglers and enthusiasts from around the world and including in the Caribbean, providing opportunities, which he said can be exploited for the benefit of Brand Jamaica.

"Over the years, the Port Antonio Marlin Tournament has attracted anglers from as far away as the Netherlands, as we experienced last year; and participants from North America, as well as teams from right here in our own backyard in the Caribbean, who are consistent players in this 'king' of sports," Distant said.

He continued: "It certainly is an area for further development, as we adopt concepts for sustainable tourism development and create an even more nuanced tourism product that is both unique and versatile."

... Targeting families

Robin Levy, a former director of the Sir Henry Morgan Angling Association, which organises the annual Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament, has said that last year's event alone was poised to generate some $150 million in spending for the Portland parish capital; and this year, although a shorter number of days will be spent gaming, it could generate similar spending.

"This year is targeted to families, therefore, we may occupy more hotel rooms rather than anglers staying on their boats," he said.

He said, however, that it was not always easy to blend the sport with other aspects of Jamaican culture and lifestyle, as the competitiveness of the anglers can sometimes intimidate those who may want to participate for flair.

"It's a competition and it's kind of intense. The anglers are really serious and it does intimidate some people, so it's a little hard to make those kinds of linkages, but we continue to work at that," he said, indicating that the tournament has been able to fuse live music into the game. Last year the tournament opened with a concert featuring the Jolly Boys and local Port Antonio bands. And, this year, a boat sound clash will feature as part of the competition.

Jamaica has at least four marlin tournaments annually, and the Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament is one of the oldest and largest in the Caribbean region.

The discussion on the need for stronger linkages between game fishing and tourism comes only a month before the United Nation World Trade Organization and the Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group's Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth. The conference will be in Montego Bay, St James, from November 27-29 under the theme, 'Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism'.