TORONTO — The news reports coming in from Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands are heartbreaking, and the images even more so.
KINGSTON — Jamaica’s northeast coast is the ideal spot for high-end, low-density eco-tourism and lifestyle resort development, with the potential for higher average daily rates, says Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.
Perched at the top of the island, with Ocho Rios to the west and Port Antonio to the east, St. Mary is rich in cultural history, plus it offers several elements that can be used to develop the area into a “mini-destination”, says Bartlett.
Jamaica has thousands of new hotel rooms coming in the next several years. Over the next five years Jamaica will see its largest ever investment from hoteliers, adding 15,000 rooms to its stock, for a total capacity of some 50,000 rooms by 2024. Sandals Resorts is just one of the names associated with Jamaica’s northeast coast, in the Port Antonio area, in recent years.
Speaking at a tour of the parish this past weekend, Minister Bartlett said: “As part of our commitment to reimagine destination Jamaica, we are committed to building out new experiences east of Oracabessa towards Port Antonio.”
He said he’s taking a
“hard look at Robin’s Bay, Golden Eye, beaches and rivers, and all the public assets in St. Mary, to determine the potential of the area to become a lifestyle tourism destination.”
The technical team from the Ministry and various agencies, led by Permanent Secretary Jennifer Griffiths, took part in the tour as part of the initial assessment of the area.
“What we envisage for this side of the island is of course low density and low carbon foot prints to ensure minimal impact on the environment. We also want to look at the higher demographic in terms of the ability to attract higher average daily rates within this area.
“We think that Port Antonio would be the big centre for lifestyle tourism with strong eco-tourism values, which can go all the way to Oracabessa.”
The reimaging exercise began earlier this year under the instructions of Minister Bartlett. Permanent Secretary Griffith, who leads the team, began carving out a destination development plan for Negril. Other areas that will be included are St. Thomas, Clarendon, Port Antonio and most recently St. Mary.
“The area has huge geophysical assets in terms of its beaches, waterfalls and rivers that can definitely be converted into tremendous experiences for tourism and the time is now for us to capitalize on this potential,” said Bartlett.