Tourism interests seek Minister's assistance
By Erica James-King, Senior Staff Reporter
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Assamba and Forstmayr
MAJOR PLAYERS in the tourist resort of Montego Bay want Aloun N'Dombet Assamba, the new Minister of Tourism and Industry, to focus on converting cruise ship passengers into stop-over visitors as part of the expansion of Jamaica's land-based tourism.
Hospitality interests have also advocated a more serious working relationship between the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Local Government.
Leading the call for changes, David Lindo, chairman of the Cruise Ship Committee of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, said the sector had to "go after the thousands of cruise ship passengers that go through our ports every year. You can't just sit back and hope they will come back and spend a vacation in Jamaica," he said. "You have to have a programme targeting them and there's a great role the Jamaica Tourist Board can play in that regard."
In an interview with The Gleaner, Mr. Lindo said the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce had initiated a six-month programme of documenting data on cruise ship passengers and their levels of expenditure as a precursor to reaching out to them in the long run. He said a similar programme was undertaken in St. Ann.
Buoyed by positive responses to the chamber's efforts to convince at least 25 per cent of the 200,000 cruise ship passengers calling at Montego Bay each year, to spend their vacations in Jamaica, Mr. Lindo underscored the need for government to support and expand the programme.
"At the international conference I attended at the end of September, the cruise lines say their passengers, even the repeat passengers, do not usually do a cruise every year. They might do a cruise every three to four years, and in between they go on holidays. So if Jamaica does a successful conversion programme, then you have a chance of capturing those people who might be interested in coming back for a long vacation," he said.
At least two new cruise ships are expected to visit Montego Bay in another two months. The megaship Carnival Conquest, which carries more than 3,000 passengers, will dock on December 4. And the German cruise ship Arosa Blue, will also make its inaugural visit to the island on December 21.
Josef Forstmayr, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, said the Ministry of Local Government should seek to maintain and improve the infrastructure in the tourist resort. He said such a move must "go hand in hand" with fine-tuning the tourism product and ironing out the administrative kinks plaguing the operation of the Jamaica Tourist Board.
"The Local Government Ministry must make the job of the Tourist Ministry lighter and vice versa," he said. "I fail to understand why garbage is all over the place in Montego Bay. The Parish Council must do a great deal more in picking up trash and garbage and controlling the (street) vending problem," he added.
"The problem with litter and the poor maintenance of drains and roads in Montego Bay is not just an indictment on the scant regard paid to aspects of the cruise ship industry and other needs of the hospitality sector, but reflects poorly on the civic pride of the Jamaican people," said Mr. Forstmayr.
Lamenting what he said was the absence of proper town management, Mr. Forstmayr said Local Government Ministry officials needed to see themselves as part of the solution to many of the problems facing tourist resorts. He called for enforcement of the regulations concerning the placement of billboards and the Litter Act.
Mark Kerr-Jarrett, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, criticised the authorities for what he said was foot-dragging in upgrading the North Gully. He said the government had failed to correct the problem of stray animals that not only caused a nuisance to road users, but had led to fatalities on the thoroughfares of Montego Bay.
"I am not convinced that Montego Bay is getting quality service from the Local Government authorities and if they clean up their act, it could work to the benefit of the tourism and transport sectors," said Mr. Kerr-Jarrett.