MoBay's cruise shipping figures irk stakeholders
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
While Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill believes that the one per cent growth in cruise-ship arrivals recorded by Montego Bay in 2014 is "better than no increase at all", business interests in the western city are bitterly disappointed.
According to data from the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), Montego Bay, which was once the premier cruise destination in the Western Hemisphere, welcomed a mere 239,771 passengers on 86 vessels for 2014, a slight one per cent increase over the 2013 figure of 239,363 passengers from 81 cruise ships.
Businessman Godfrey Dyer, a two-time former president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) and the head of the commercial community group's Tourism and Cruise-shipping Committee, expressed displeasure with the situation and said discussions are to be held with Port Authority of Jamaica boss Professor Gordon Shirley, to see what can be done to address the situation.
"The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry has initiated discussions with the Port Authority of Jamaica to encourage them to do something about the Montego Bay Pier, and we are slated to meet with PAJ head Professor Gordon Shirley, shortly," said Dyer, who has almost 40 years' experience in the sector.
Speaking at last week's Jamaica House press briefing in Montego Bay, Dr Wykeham McNeill outlined the cruise-shipping figures for the western city, which was actually 0.9 per cent or 2,127 additional visitors over the previous year.
"A one per cent increase is better than no increase at all. When Falmouth was being built, I made the point that other areas would lose some business, and that has happened, and we are now working on those other areas (Ocho Rios and Falmouth)," said McNeill.
The tourism minister said work on the Ocho Rios cruise facility has been going well and is nearing completion. He further revealed that he has participated in a recently held consultation with business interests in Montego Bay regarding several issues stifling growth, where he had called for local marquee attractions.
However, businessman Davon Crump, who was quite vocal in his tenure as president of the MBCCI about the inadequacies of the port's infrastructure in Montego Bay, said he was disappointed that no major work has taken place on the facility.
"There is not going to be any significant growth ... I am surprised that there is any growth at all," said Crump, noting that the promise to work on the facility was made more than four years ago but nothing has happened to date. "... We are here languishing in the shadows of the other facilities.
"A one per cent growth is nothing to celebrate when we look at where we (are) coming from," added Crump.