Time to develop Ja's tourism product

Published: Tuesday | December 31, 2013 Comments 0

Kevin K.O. Sangster, Contributor

On Sunday, Jamaica reportedly welcomed for the first time ever its two millionth stopover visitor in any one calendar year. The tourism ministry/Jamaica Tourist Board is understandably revelling.

Yes, we celebrate this milestone, but where is the vision to transform and enhance our tourism product so as to appeal to and attract a wider cross section of visitors who will spend even more when they come?

Sun, sand, and sea cannot be the focus as we do not have any real competitive advantage in those areas. Our tourism product needs to be better diversified, preferably with each tourist region offering something unique.

To that end, the Government must be prepared to extend significant tax incentives to potential investors, bearing in mind that much more government revenue can be had from all the spin-offs that come from such investments.

Why can't we have, for instance, the Montego Bay Hip Strip pedestrianised and developed into a high-end duty-free area, offering some of the finest merchandise for cheaper than the cost tourists would get in their homelands?

Why can't we develop even more attractions in the Ocho Rios area to make it a region of choice to play and develop Falmouth for both heritage and sports tourism? Why can't we develop the eastern parishes of Portland and St Mary into a truly ecotourism region, with the south coast developed for health, community, and heritage tourism?

Why can't we develop the Port Royal-downtown Kingston-Spanish Town triangle into Jamaica's finest entertainment and cultural zone, solidifying our position as truly the entertainment capital of the Caribbean?

The long-touted casino gaming should be restricted to an area like Port Royal as the casinos would fit nicely within the historical framework of the once 'Wickedest City on Earth', which could potentially rival the United States' 'Sin City', Las Vegas.

A cruise-ship port, a Disney-like theme park, duty-free shopping, underground excursions, and the like, could be developed in Port Royal. Port Royal could be zoned as the 24-hour party area of Jamaica, fully exempt from the strictures of the Noise Abatement Act. Certainly, the support and relocation of residents may be necessary.

Pubs, discos, sidewalk cafés, bistros, and the like could line Ocean Boulevard and other areas of downtown Kingston as well as Port Royal. Museums, including a museum of political history in a 'Parliament Square' containing our new Parliament building, and the historic churches and other buildings in downtown Kingston and Spanish Town should form part of the offering.

Our craft vendors ought to be placed more at the places of attraction and interest visited by the tourists, rather than at craft markets in areas where several tourists are not inclined to go due to fear of crime and harassment such as the Harbour Street Craft Market in Montego Bay.

Naturally, the craft vendors would be trained and licensed, possibly by the Tourism Product Development Company, and be assigned to zones akin to how we assign taxi drivers' routes.

The bottom line is that we cannot sit on our laurels and be content with two million tourists coming to enjoy mostly sun, sand, and sea. We must not be content until millions more are coming to enjoy the truly complete resort destination that is Jamaica, offering a little of just about everything imaginable for tourism.

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