Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill has underscored that the resort town of Ocho Rios has been spared any major impact from the passage of Hurricane Sandy and is open for business. This after Minister McNeill toured sections of the town earlier this week with State Minister for Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Damion Crawford, members of the Resort Board, representatives of the Jamaica Tourist Board, JTB, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and other Ministry and government officials.
Following the tour which incorporated various sections of the town including the cruise ship pier and the One Love Trail, the Minister noted that “based on what we have seen from examining sections of the town there are only a few areas that were directly affected by Sandy and now need to be addressed. But frankly speaking the town of Ocho Rios is open for business and we are working closely with the JHTA, the Parish Council, Resort Board and other tourism partners to address the immediate and longstanding issues that have to be tackled as we seek to enhance the town.”
Minister McNeill outlined that “the first thing we will be doing is removing fallen vegetation and debris from sections of the town, and most of these immediate issues will be addressed within a month. We will also be effecting repairs to the One Love Trail and we are in discussions to develop a strategy to enhance and maintain that entire area.”
Additionally the Minister explained that the short term efforts to enhance the resort area form part of a general development plan for Ocho Rios. He said “as we seek to improve the product offering of Ocho Rios there are some longstanding issues that we are moving to deal with such as improving the aesthetics of Fern Gully. But we have to examine these issues in the context of a broader plan for the enhancement of the town.”
He added that “we met with representatives from the Urban Development Corporation, UDC, two weeks ago and discussed an overall development plan for the town including the future of the cruise ship pier. We are looking at what we can do over the short, medium and long term to improve the product of Ocho Rios and we are working closely with the Resort Board and other tourism partners in concretizing these plans.”
It was also noted that plans are afoot to minimize fallout from the effects of Sandy on the Northeast of the United States, which remains the island’s main source market for visitors. Minister McNeill said “we are in discussions with tour operators and other tourism partners in the Northeast of the US. Early next week we will be holding discussions with them to develop a strategic plan to mitigate any fallout from Hurricane Sandy. We are not taking the matter lightly, but brand Jamaica is very strong and we are confident that we will be able to move forward from this and regain our momentum shortly. ”