Negril stakeholders ready for promised int’l airport
AFTER YEARS of lobbying, stakeholders in Negril, one of Jamaica’s premier tourism destinations, are poised to get their wish as the Government has announced plans to construct an international airport in that resort town, which is expected to appeal to potential visitors to that ‘island paradise’.
In his recent Sectoral presentation in Parliament, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett stated that Negril, as a major tourist destination, needs a major injection of resources if it is to realise its full potential and that, during this new fiscal year, the town will see comprehensive development.
“A comprehensive development which will include an international airport, a public beach park, and a craft village,” Bartlett pointed out, as he noted that Negril will soon become the jewel of Jamaica and the Caribbean.
According to Elaine Allen Bradley, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, having an airport would significantly elevate the profile of the town and open new doors to development in areas such as health tourism, which is a badly under-exploited area of potential earning for Jamaica.
“I am over the moon, but I am not jumping for joy just yet… everything that Negril wants has been on the cards for many years but for years we have just been having the same talk,” said Allen Bradley, who has been a staunch advocate for the development of the resort since returning to live in Jamaica 23 years ago.
“I am hoping and praying that this time around it will move from talk to action as we are ready, the Chamber, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, and all the other stakeholders here in Negril,” she added. “Over the years, Negril has been putting lots of money into the nation’s coffers and we strongly believe that we should be getting something to show for it.”
In 2017, Daniel Grizzle, a top Negril hotelier and co-founder of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, launched a relentless campaign to have the Government upgrade the Negril aerodrome to an international airport. He further stated that if the existing location lacked the capacity to facilitate such a development, there are adequate government-owned lands that could be utilised.
There are a lot of ‘weekender’ tourists, people from Florida, who would want to fly in and play at the Negril golf course…the hotels could work with the golf club to have special weekend rates. It would make a whole lot of difference for our economic viability,” Grizzle said at the time.
Dr Carey Wallace, Executive Director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), who is also a Negril native, is also on board with the plan and provided details of how the first phase of the project will be executed.
“I definitely think it is the right move. The first phase of the project will see the expansion of the runway and set up the facility to accommodate international flights. That will open up Negril as a very accessible destination to a clientele that might be cash rich but time poor and so their holiday experience, if they can minimise the time to get to the beach, it would augur well for them,” Wallace said.
“I believe we will see an increase in tourism arrivals, especially high-end clients who might have their own private jets, which allows them to land and be on the beach in a few minutes is a lot more appealing and they can afford it,” he added. “It will also help to ease the congestion that we are having at the Montego Bay airport and the traffic through Montego Bay, through Hopewell, through Lucea to get to Negril.”