OCHO RIOS, St Ann—“Jamaica is open for business,” the minister of tourism declared yesterday in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Dr Wykeham McNeill delivered the “business as usual” message — aimed at countering the idea that Jamaica was knocked out by the storm — as he toured Ocho Rios on Wednesday with the Major of St Ann’s Bay and other council members.
“A lot of people overseas saw the hurricane pass over,” McNeill said. “The impression is that Jamaica has had severe damage, and what we have to do is to send the message out that Jamaica is open for business.”
Tourism markets must be made aware that business is still operational so that the economic distress caused by the hurricane will not be compounded by a dramatic fall in arrivals.
The tourism ministry was doing all it could for Jamaica to stay in the market, he said, adding that it was aware that the devastation Sandy caused in the US, one of Jamaica’s largest markets, could also affect the industry.
“It is an important tourism market and we don’t take it lightly. But at the same time, we are going to do as much as we can to mitigate the fall-out from it,” McNeill said.
The ministry would be implementing strategic plans to get back in that market, he said, though it was too early to reveal details.
The industry in Ocho Rios is certainly ready to receive guests, he said. But he admitted that issues remained in the resort town, some of which were being dealt with immediately with the help of the St Ann Parish Council and other stake holders.
Other problems would take time to solve. “We need to be thinking medium and long term,” he said.
Among the areas that were already under discussion with stakeholders before the storm were the Ocho Rios Cruise Ship Pier and the Love Walk, both of which need redevelopment.