Jamaica Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, has predicted the resort town of Negril being transformed into “an alluring, strong and effective destination that will rival any of this particular nature across the globe.”
Convinced that this can be achieved through public-private sector partnership, Minister Bartlett met with stakeholders at Couples Swept Away recently following a tour of a section of the famous seven-mile beach, observing resort activities and meeting and greeting tourists, locals and operators of entities along the stretch.
While crediting the unique resort for its integral role in sustaining the tourist industry with an enviable 42 percent repeat business, the highest level in the entire Caribbean, Minister Bartlett said Negril now needed to reposition itself.
He expressed satisfaction with the level of institutional support that he said existed to enable a number of collective actions and was equally pleased with the enthusiasm and energy felt in Negril for a transformation.
“Negril, like all tourism resort destinations, has to redefine itself, embrace innovation and understand what drives visitors – their passion – and establish those passion points and build out products around them,” said Minister Bartlett.
One compelling thought was that Negril could become a particular centre for gastronomy, “bearing in mind the cuisine of Westmoreland and the way in which we have been able in this parish to use curry with such variety and diverse ways to satisfy the palates of even the most discriminating ,” said Mr. Bartlett, who is a son of the parish.
He reiterated the goal of having year-round tourism, boosting its contribution to the national economy, and providing employment. “As I talked to the people they were saying, Minister we want more tourists, and we say yes, but we cannot have more tourists if we are only a seasonal industry, if we are a summer and a winter industry. We are going to drive more visitors to become an all-year-round destination,” he emphasised.
A number of projects backed by the Ministry are currently on stream and Minister Bartlett said while he supported having their retention, the scope of some would have to be adjusted “because we are not of the view that you just build for the sake of having nice edifices; we have to build because it is fit for a purpose that is going to drive a return on investment and enable growth, because that is our mantra.”
Minister Bartlett stated that community development projects were going to be very important to the development of tourism in the region. He cited one project in particular being contemplated for Red Ground which he said would build out capacity for development of the human personality and the character of the young people.
Assurance was also given that the previously announced “artisan village is a must for Negril” with vendors being placed in a position where they can be licensed. It will be tied into a fruit and vegetable market for the resort town, considering that “one of the things we don’t get yet is that the merchandising of our fruits and vegetables and our commodities is the attraction point,” the Minister said.
There was clear consensus between stakeholders and Mr. Bartlett that passing off merchandise manufactured in Asia as Jamaican products had to stop with the Minister insisting on authenticity and members of the community calling for a return of Things Jamaican stores as marketing outlets.
Minister Bartlett said the Institute of Craft would be a reality in this fiscal cycle to complement the Artisan Village and drive the production of authentic creative Jamaican merchandise.