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CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS - Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Dr Horace Chang, in deep discussion with his colleague, Shahinie Robinson, minister of labour and social security, on a visit to the Urban Development Corporation in Ocho Rios on Friday, May 12.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Dr Horace Chang (left), and Shahinie Robinson, minister of labour and social security, looking at a development plan for Ocho Rios with chairman of the Port Authority, Professor Gordon Shirley, while on a site visit at the Reynolds Pier, Ocho Rios.

Ochi's renaissance

Camille Miller, Hospitality Jamaica Writer

Boasting the most attractions, including the world famous Dunn's River Falls, the town of Ocho Rios is set to undergo a type of renovation that government officials say will make it the undisputed jewel of the Caribbean.

The project, which has three phases, will see an upgrade of the facilities, both marine and on land, at an estimated cost of $260 million.

On a tour of the resort town last Friday, both the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, with responsibility for water, works and housing, Dr Horace Chang, and chairman of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), Professor Gordon Shirley, agreed that all the ingredients are in place to make Ocho Rios the premiere port of call in the region.

"I think it's obvious that for more than one reasons, Ocho Rios will become the principal cruise destination in the Caribbean, and we have to make every effort to bring it to the standard it should be internationally," Dr Chang said.

Areas to be upgraded include the Ocho Rios Fishing Village, a state-of-the-art fishing village which is currently under construction and will be completed in two phases, the Reynolds Pier, and also the reclamation of the beachfront.

The minister was, however, wary of the current situation at the Reynolds Pier, a site targeted for major renovation and transformation and which currently accommodates cruise operations as well as other commercial activities such as sugar and limestone, noting that it should be more structured and aesthetically appealing.

"We have to ensure that all the logistics are worked out, where it doesn't appear as if we are in each other's way," Dr Chang cautioned.

TOURISM-RELATED ACTIVITIES

"We are all government entities, so I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to be better structured where when the passengers disembarked, what they are seeing are tourism-related activities."

He added: "International standards will make it very acceptable to all our visitors and also keep our local population engaged and involved in what we are doing," explained Dr Chang.

For his part, Professor Shirley said that not only will the upgrades greatly enhance Ocho Rios' appeal, but will also enable the resort town to attract multiple mega liners simultaneously.

"Unlike Falmouth, Ocho Rios can only accommodate one of those large mega liners one at a time and that is at the Urban Development Corporation Pier," he explained. "What we are putting in now will give the town that opportunity where we will have the large ships at both piers ... where we can have two at each, at the same time."

In the meantime, minister of labour and social security and member of parliament for the area, Shahinie Robinson, said the people of Ocho Rios, and by extension the entire parish of St Ann, stand to benefit from the developments, calling it timely and necessary.

"I am all about development and benefits for the people," she noted. "Ocho Rios is a very beautiful town that, once given all the required attention, will emerge as a true tourism Mecca and one that will generate a lot of foreign-exchange earnings for the country." 

 

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