OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeil, has expressed optimism that resort town of Ocho Rios will be ready to host the premier trade event, the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) scheduled for September 30 to October 2.
McNeil along with his state minister, Damion Crawford and other local players in the tourism industry last Thursday toured sections of the resort town to ascertain its readiness ahead of the premier trade show.
The tour followed a meeting held with members of the JAPEX planning committee at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa, venue for the three-day event, which is expected to attract hundreds of participants from around the world.
McNeil told reporters that he was confident that all the preparations for the event would be completed in time and that Jamaica would be ready to welcome participants.
"We want to make sure that preparations were being made and to ensure that Ocho Rios was in the best possible condition to welcome our visitors," McNeil said. The improvement works, he noted, were well advanced. "We are satisfied that we will be ready in time for JAPEX," McNeil added. "What we also discussed was to ensure that even though we have set out a work plan that has to be done; we also are putting in place a contingency [plan]," the minister said.
He noted, however, that said while there were more works that needed to be done as a number of agencies have been working together to ensure the general improvement of the resort town in time for JAPEX, which is the single most important business generator of the country's tourism product.
Several areas, including the venue for the event, the craft market, the port road and one love trail, the old court house as well as works being done along the Ocho Rios Development Road were viewed by the touring party.
While viewing the different sites, Dr McNeil pointed out that although his immediate focus was to ensure that all goes well for JAPEX, he also wanted to see what would be needed to enhance the resort area.
"Ocho Rios has a lot to offer in terms of visitor attractions and sheer appeal. However, there have been some areas in recent years where this appeal has been wanting and so we are moving to get back to an acceptable level for residents and visitors alike."
Improvement work throughout the town includes drain cleaning, bushing and the painting of curb walls and building, erecting of road signs and replacement and painting of broken walls.
Chairman of the Ocho Rios Resort Board, Dr Roosevelt Crooks, said he was pleased that the works were well advanced and explained that while work to improve the aesthetics of the town had been ongoing, the pace of those works has been stepped up.
"We not only bushing and clearing the drains, we [are] really improving the aesthetics of the town, giving it some hump and spunk," he said.
Dr Crooks said September 26 has been set as the deadline when all aspects of the work is to be completed.
JAPEX is a collaborative effort between the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association. About 150 tourism suppliers from across the country will have their products on show during the event.