Former Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has joined the growing list of persons calling for the Hip Strip in Montego Bay and the One Love Drive (West End road) in Negril to be designated entertainment zones to capitalise on the global appeal of Jamaica's music
"Such a designation would send a message to investors about how serious we are about growing entertainment tourism," said Bartlett. "In addition, this would create the scope for the industry to employ many more persons."
The recent call by Bartlett was endorsed by hotelier Godfrey Dyer, a director of Jamaica's premier music festival, Reggae Sumfest. According to Dyer, the creation of entertainment zones would open the door for other persons to benefit from local entertainment.
"Tourism is doing well, but the communities are not feeling it," said Dyer. "I believe entertainment zoning could make a significant difference in that regard as entertainment would not only benefit those staging events, but vendors could also earn revenue that would go right back into the economy."
The call for the establishment of entertainment zones has been the rallying cry for promoters such as Negril businessman Clive 'Cubba' Pringle, who is of the view that such zones would take promoters from under the hammer of the Noise Abatement Act, which has been negatively affecting many events.
"If we had special entertainment zones, we would be able to stage events without fear of being shut down prematurely by the police," said Pringle. "As things are, it is difficult for promoters to function in comfort with the Noise Abatement Act."
DISCUSSIONS UNDER WAY
While in opposition, current Minister of Tourism Dr Wykeham McNeill, who is the member of parliament for Western Westmoreland, where Negril is located, called for a high-level discussion on the matter.
Last week, his state minister, Damion Crawford, told Western Focus that the matter would be brought before Cabinet shortly.
"We are looking at zoning generally, not just for western Jamaica," said Crawford. "We will also be seeking to review the Noise Abatement Act. We have three policies that have been sent to Cabinet that will affect this, but there are some drawbacks to zoning, and one must look at the implications of building out zones and getting the required investments."
In speaking to the financial viability of creating entertainment zones, Crawford pointed to the fact that in many cases, the promoters of events were not necessarily on secure financial footing.
"One must also consider that some promoters stage outdoor events - such as street dances - because they cannot afford rentals," said Crawford.