Knutsford Express rolls into Port Antonio
Janet Silvera, Hospitality Jamaica Coordinator
Knutsford Express, the pioneering transportation firm which has changed the face of local transport, has expanded its service to the forgotten tourist resort of Portland.
Knutsford now boasts an islandwide network with new service along Jamaica's north-east coast, from Ocho Rios to Port Antonio.
The aim, Knutsford Express chief executive officer, Oliver Townsend said, is to put in 20,000 seats, giving properties that are struggling to get their guests there much-needed, reliable transportation, "particularly from Negril and Montego Bay".
Statistics from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) shows a record of approximately 20,000 tourists visiting Port Antonio in 2014.
"We are delighted after much effort to finally serve the parish of Portland," said an excited Townsend during an interview with Hospitality Jamaica. He noted that from their new offices at the Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio, which opened on April 7, they are offering daily scheduled luxury coach service, "connecting our award-winning north coast service via Ocho Rios, to Negril, Montego Bay, Falmouth and New Kingston".
According to him, although the service was designed for Jamaicans, it has been attracting tourists who also appreciate the professionalism, reliability, safety and comfort associated with Knutsford Express.
"It is with great pride that we introduce this service to Port Antonio, using coaches equipped with air-conditioner, reclining seats, Wi-Fi, onboard restroom and bottled water. We operate at such a standard that tourists are drawn to it."
Townsend said with fares as low as US$26 per person one-way, this will significantly add rooms to the many properties in Portland that have complained over the years about their inaccessibility and absence of an aerodrome lit for arrival of aircraft at night.
Hotelier Jabbar Fahmi of Jamaica Palace said, "Knutsford Express will certainly speed up guest arrivals at Jamaica Palace. The comfort and style they offer is very welcomed".
The service has been welcomed by a number of local tourism interests including: Hotel Tim Bamboo, Mockingbird Hill, Rio Vista Resort, Great Huts and Bayview Eco Resort.
Passengers departing Negril as early as 7:15 a.m. get to Port Antonio after 1 p.m. currently.
From Thursday to Monday, persons can also depart Montego Bay at 5 p.m., getting to Port Antonio by approximately 9 p.m. Likewise, every morning the bus leaves Port Antonio at 6:30 a.m. with complimentary drop-off at the Sangster International Airport.
"We have gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback from all parts of the accommodations sub-sector in the hospitality industry, because they realise this opens up the tourist market to them in a fundamental way," added Townsend.
He explained that prospective passengers can plan a vacation in Port Antonio because it's no longer way off the beaten path.
"With a click on the Internet, they are able to secure travel arrangements."
Townsend argued that the service will probably bolster the local taxi operators as well.
"Like all our other areas where we operate, it creates business for the local taxi operators."
The Knutsford Express CEO is hoping that the JTB, with its impressive expansion of the mass market side of the industry, will take marketing advantage of this investment made in putting seats in various parts of the island.
"Ideally, we are assisting the smaller properties."
Making reference to comments made by Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill, Townsend said he has spoken about the growing demand for multi-destinations in the Caribbean, "Likewise, Jamaica being diverse, you have this sub-sector of the Jamaican industry that wants to explore and see more. We have made the investment and we are hoping that the JTB will help to spread the news of this new service."
All the buses being used are coaches that are 90 per cent equipped with restrooms. They are feature-rich, offering more comfort than the typical buses used in the tour industry.
"They are all are air-conditioned with reclining seats, reading lights. They are a newer generation of coaches with charging feeds for laptops and phones," Townsend said.
Beyond the high technology that the vehicles are equipped with, it is the service offered to passengers, particularly by their customer transportation officers that Townsend said remains the high point.