Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Wykeham McNeill says Montego Bay, St James, needs some iconic attractions if it is to rediscover the glory days when the western city was the undisputed tourism capital of the Caribbean.
"The cruise-ship industry is driven by soft adventures. When people go on cruises, they want stuff to do. Montego Bay needs some more iconic attractions," said McNeill. "A good product is easy to market, but it's not only about marketing the product, it's also about market development."
He added: "When you go to Ocho Rios (in St Ann), you have Dunn's River Falls and Mystic Mountain. In Portland, there is rafting on the Rio Grande … certain soft adventure experiences that drive these areas," continued McNeill. "Montego Bay has a number of things, (but) it needs some marquee attractions."
McNeill, his State Minister Damion Crawford, Montego Bay Mayor Glendon Harris, and Central St James Member of Parliament Lloyd B. Smith toured a number of sites earmarked for development through the Tourism Enhancement Fund.
The tour included sections of the Bogue road, the Montego Bay Civic Centre, the craft markets, the Hip Strip, and the Elegant Corridor - the tourism belt.
Since the Falmouth cruise-ship pier - developed through a partnership between the Port Authority of Jamaica and international cruise-shipping firm, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line - was officially opened in March 2011, Montego Bay has been playing second fiddle to Falmouth as Jamaica's favoured port of entry for cruise operators.
Falmouth, a historic seaport town with a rich Georgian architecture, has also surpassed Ocho Rios in popularity, accounting for 373,349 of the 849,298 cruise passengers who arrived in Jamaica between January and July of this year.
Between January and July, Ocho Rios saw some 257,693 cruise-ship passengers, Montego Bay had 217,850, and Port Antonio had 406 from two ships.
Of the 251 cruise ships to enter Jamaican waters for the period, Ocho Rios led the way with 90 vessels, one more than Falmouth's 89, while Montego Bay had 70.
Within recent times, stakeholders in Montego Bay have stepped up efforts to rid the streets of illegal vending and unregulated taxi operations as a way of repositioning the Second City as a premier tourism destination.
While the relocation of vendors to sections of the Charles Gordon Market is seen as a good move, there is a concerted cry for a new bus park to be built, as relocating taxis from one street to another is seen as transferring the problems and indiscipline associated with it.