Major plans, including an additional 5,000 hotel rooms, are on the drawing board for the development of Negril over the next five years.
Concurrently, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has hinted at Negril being given a status that will remove it from the dual management it now has between Hanover and Westmoreland.
Top-level discussions have started between multiple government ministries and stakeholders of Negril on aspects of the development to be rolled out over time. In the meantime, with tourism being a critical component, Minister Bartlett spoke of some things to come as he gave the keynote address at the unveiling of a picturesque multi-coloured Negril welcome sign at the eastern end of the noted “Capital of Casual” resort.
Negril has long enjoyed a special place in the hearts of visitors and with Jamaica making rapid strides in its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic fallout, Minister Bartlett said this resort has been making a spectacular contribution, pulling in about one-third of the more than US$3 billion earned by the industry so far this year; and with that, Jamaica has had its strongest and best ever summer tourism season with the one just ended.
Mr. Bartlett said there is to be a holistic development of Negril but stressed the need for the resort to be cleaned up of crime and other social issues that have been rearing their ugly heads in recent times.
On the cards for further development are close to 5,000 new rooms, including a 1000-room hotel at Rhodes Hall, a new property at Ocean Point and expansion of the Princess, Palladium, Sandals, and Beaches properties.
With a commitment to developing public spaces in Negril, Mr. Bartlett said as a start, the existing beach park is to be transformed, patterning the Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay but not being as elaborate. He said the proposed plan has the support of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and is part of a bigger plan to create appealing public parks in resort areas “for the benefit of Jamaicans while inviting visitors to enjoy them.”
The $12 million sign features a layby and walkway, retaining wall, landscaping, and the fabrication of letters in red, green, and gold, reflecting the ‘vibe’ of Negril. It comes with solar lighting, which helps with its night visibility and sustainability.
Executive Director of the Tourism Product Development Company Ltd (TPDCo), Wade Mars, termed it the JAM-ICONIC Photo experience and like him, Minister Bartlett anticipates that in addition to adding to the aesthetic of the resort, the sign will also act as a catalyst to attract greater foot traffic to the area.
The tourism executives said research has shown that accessible photo experiences within destinations give visitors an additional incentive to travel longer and capture these scenic shots as part of their vacation experience. It is therefore intended that the existence of these sites will also provide the home destination with user-generated content for marketing, which has a multiplier effect in attracting audiences.
TPDCo, which is mandated to “Transforming and Enhancing the Tourism Product” has mapped out a programme to boost tourism within rural communities and add aesthetic appeal to destination areas using the JAMICONIC photo experiences to highlight protected areas such as natural skylines; national parks and gardens, for instance, the Cockpit Country, Blue Mountain; as well as destination areas like Negril; Panoramic views of Jamaica’s historic plains; waterways and towns.
The plans being pursued Negril’s growth have been welcomed by President of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, Richard Wallace and Member of Parliament for Hanover Western, Tamika Davis, as well as Mayor of Lucea, Councillor Sheridan Samuels; Deputy Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, Councillor Danree Delancey and Secretary/Manager of the Negril/Green Island Area Land Authority, Althea McKenzie-Stewart.