Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau:Based on the ambitious projections of several stakeholders in the region's business, commercial, social, and security sectors, it would appear that Christmas 2012 will be quite a merry affair in western Jamaica.
"The Yuletide season should be a grand one for the residents of St James," Montego Bay's Mayor Glendon Harris told Western Focus earlier this week. "The parish council is putting everything in place to ensure that this is possible."
According to Harris, approximately $17 million is being spent on Christmas clean-up and beautification projects throughout the parish, with special emphasis on the townships. In addition, vendors are being allowed to ply their trade in selected areas to boost their economic well-being.
"Allowance will be given to our vendors to sell on St James Street on the Saturday and Monday before Christmas; however, Sam Sharpe Square will remain a prohibited area," said Harris.
SALES PICKING UP
Businessman Gazzan Azan, the owner of the MegaMart wholesale chain and Bashco retail stores, says his operations in western Jamaica are now seeing a pick-up in business as shoppers intensify their preparations for Christmas.
"It is nothing really spectacular; however, it is getting better every day and we still believe there will be more improvements," said Azan.
Richard Bourke, president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce, said his membership has a very positive outlook for the Christmas season, especially against the background that Falmouth will have a number of cruise ships visiting throughout the period, bringing a financial boost to the town.
"The traditional grand market in Water Square is always something to look forward to, and while the Bend Down Market continues to be popular, it is a mixed blessing because most of the vendors are from outside the parish as opposed to buyers coming in," said Bourke.
GREAT TIME IN STORE
While she has some reservations about making any predictions about revenue generation, hotelier Pamela Brown, of Pamela's Place, located on the outskirts of Negril, thinks her guests should be in for a memorable experience.
"Christmas is generally a special time of the year in these parts," said Brown. "Those who choose to visit us are poised to have the time of their lives."
In terms of safety and security, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Devon Watkis, the commanding officer for Area One, which comprises St James, Trelawny, Hanover, and Westmoreland, is confident that the strategies the police have developed will create the right environment for all stakeholders.
"The plan is clear: crime prevention and control," said Watkis emphatically. "The directives for all our divisions are to ensure that all our citizens are safe, and as a result, all our personnel will be out on the streets."
Watkis said special provisions are in place to provide, on request, assistance to businesses which might require to move cash to financial institutions. He is also issuing an appeal to ordinary citizens to, if possible, wear less jewellery and use credit and debit cards instead of cash.
"We want this to be a good Christmas for one and all, and once certain basic guidelines are followed, we are confident that we can make it a safe one," said ACP Watkis.