Columns

There's something about Jamaica

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, December 24, 2012    

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AUTHENTIC cultural touches in a contemporary setting, attentive service, state-of-the-art technology — this is Club MoBay. (Let me hasten to say that we're not responsible for their PR.) Another non-Jamaican has succumbed to our country's charms, and we are lucky that he is David Hall. Many may know him as the former CEO of Digicel Jamaica, but David's relationship with Jamaica goes back much further. His late father, the Caribbean representative for Ireland's Waterford Crystal, had been coming to Jamaica since the 1970s and bringing his family here for their annual holidays.

"There's something about Jamaica that just grabs you," confessed David, as he explained why he and partner Carlos Moleon decided to create VIP Attractions, owners and operators of the world-class VIP lounges in Jamaica's two international airports.

"We launched this business with limited resources and an abundance of passion," he said.

After leaving Digicel to pursue his own business interests, David Hall dedicated a year of his life to raising funds and directing the building of the Genesis Academy for Special Needs Children on South Camp Road. The school's board chairman, Donna Lowe, described the effort that went into obtaining the lease, gutting the old building, renovating and expanding it. "We have weekly meetings and David has driven the process. We are always wondering how this very busy man finds the time to do so much for us as well as donate to the project."

No wonder a busy lady like Fae Ellington took the Northcoast Express in the wee hours of the morning to support the opening of Club MoBay.

"David is such a kind and caring person," said Fae. "I just had to be here for him." Of course, typical David Hall — he was upset that Fae took the bus — he said he would have arranged transportation for her.

This is why I, and many others of David Hall's friends, will never tell him if we intend to use the lounges at either airport — he would want to give us a free pass. Whenever he chides us for not telling him, we remind him that he does have to make enough to pay his staff. In less than 18 months, VIP Attractions has created over 100 jobs for, in David's words, 'born and bred Jamaicans'.

David and Carlos have the support of top corporate partners in giving visitors first-class Jamaican appeal: Scotiabank, Gleaner, Diageo, and Digicel. The walls of both Club MoBay and Club Kingston are graced with framed historical front pages of the Gleaner, researched by Isabel Barnes. The partners' dynamic wives — Liz Hall and Amanda Moleon — are also actively involved in the business, with David remarking that Liz worked 12-hour days while raising their two sons right up to the day before the birth of their daughter, Marley, six months ago. Their first child's middle name is Kingston. No wonder PM Simpson Miller describes David, not as Irish-Jamaican, but 'Irie-Jamaican'!

The official opening of Club Mobay coincided with the start of our Winter Tourist Season and the optimism from Government heavyweights was palpable. Prime Minister Simpson Miller noted that we had an over 12 per cent increase in arrivals in January to October of this year compared to the same period last year. She said that the sector employed over 80,000 Jamaicans and earned 41 per cent of our foreign exchange. She called for national unity towards a safe, secure, stable national built environment, looking towards the completion of the Ocho Rios leg of Highway 2000.

Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill remarked that just the day before, over 5,000 visitors had passed through the Sangster International Airport. He said that the new Russian carrier, Transaero Airlines, had signed up Club MoBay for their first-class passengers. The minister commented on the 'fine workmanship of local manufacturers' in Club MoBay's facilities and said his government was promoting such linkages between tourism and other sectors.

Security Minister Peter Bunting also noted the 'joined-up government' aspect of airport facilities and congratulated the dedicated Senior Superintendent of Police Andrew Lewis for his leadership in fighting crime in Montego Bay.

The fine efforts of workers in the tourism industry need genuine support and not just talk. It is a call for politicians to bring order to their followership and banish the tribalists from their ranks. We are troubled by an incident last week in which Nationwide News reporter Abka Fitz-Henley was insulted by two individuals when he dared to ask minister Lisa Hanna a question about government priorities at a Jamaica House press briefing. Abka reported on air that he was poked by a male official and asked what kind of 'fool-fool' question he was asking the Minister, while a female official addressed him as 'mawgah bwoy'. What a contrast to that dignified Montego Bay event — let us help our supporters keep their faith in Jamaica.

'Oliver Jones: An Entrepreneurial Journey'

I am looking forward to reading "Oliver Jones: An Entrepreneurial Journey" — the experiences of the evergreen insurance executive who rose above a huge loss to become one of Jamaica's most inspiring motivational speakers. Oliver Jones, Chairman of the Office of Development Advisory Committee (ODAC) at UTech, built one of the largest insurance conglomerates in Jamaica, Island Life, and watched his company falter under stressful conditions. Now he empowers others by delivering messages of positivity and resilience, and by walking his talk. The book is authored by Professor Rosalea Hamilton and Dr Angela Ramsay, and is the first in a series of books from the UTech/ScotiaBank Chair in Entrepreneurship which addresses the subject from a development perspective within the Caribbean region.

A merry, boonoonoonoos Christmas!

I was moved to get a birthday gift of the Jamaican Bible from my son. The Haitians have their Creole, the Dutch Caribbean their Papiamento, and we have our witty, rhythmic Jamaican language. Blessings of the Season, dear readers — 'Mek di Christmus ketch yu in a good mood!'

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com

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