Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, Jamaica's former cruise ship capital, is to be rebranded 'Where Eden meets the Ocean'.
For years, the St Ann town boasted a pier that welcomed the most number of cruise ship passengers, however, it lost its bulk of the business, after Royal Caribbean invested in the historical Falmouth port.
The latest project to recoup business was announced by Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr Wykeham McNeill during the Association of Jamaica Attractions, annual general meeting last Saturday at the Jewels Resort, Ocho Rios.
"The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) has been looking to rebrand, but we actually have to do some infrastructure work, all the agencies and the local stakeholders," Dr McNeill admitted.
He is being backed by senior vice-president of cruise shipping and marina operations at the PAJ, William Tatham, who told The Gleaner that over the next 12 months, his organisation will aggressively promote Ocho Rios, through sales calls and advertising to the cruise industry.
The work commenced just a week ago, Tatham revealed.
Falmouth was branded as the historical cultural experience. "That's its strength," said Tatham, but it remains difficult to promote the tourism capital, Montego Bay.
"Montego Bay does not have an iconic attraction, and part of our job is to distinguish to decision makers, what makes each port different," he said.
The PAJ official said he was looking to other brands such as Costas, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Carnival, to bring back Ocho Rios to its heydays.
"If you look around the Caribbean, there is no other port of call that can give you more natural attractions that Ocho Rios can give within 20 minutes," he argued.
Tatham said a lot of work needs to be done on the ground, lots of issues that needs to be dealt with, "Harassment is still there, we can campaign and sell to the cruise lines, but the experience must reflect that," he warned.
He said: "Until a guest is able to walk out of the cruise port and walk into the town of Ocho Rios unhindered and 'un-harassed', we will continue to struggle to bring in the lines."
There have been ongoing meetings with NCL and the PAJ. Coming out of those meetings, NCL has agreed to increase their commitment to the port of Ocho Rios, by committing one of its mega liners for January 2014.