Bartlett claims last laugh over MoBay welcome sign

Observer staff reporter

Monday, April 01, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Edmund Bartlett is claiming that he has had the last laugh over his critics as the controversial $17-million 'Welcome to Montego Bay' sign, just outside Sangster International Airport in that resort city, is now a major tourist attraction.

“I have gotten messages from a number of visitors saying 'they beat you up, but it's the nicest place that we have seen, and Montego Bay now looks good',” he claimed at the glitzy Tourism Service Excellence Service Awards 2018, referred to as the 'Oscars of Tourism', held at Montego Bay Convention Centre, Saturday night.

Pointing out that the private sector had contributed $5 million to the construction, Bartlett, the tourism minister, reiterated that the sign would cost taxpayers $10 million.

Following sharp public criticism after the ministry announced the project last November, Bartlett ordered Permanent Secretary Jennifer Griffith to conduct a full review of the costs associated with the project.

In December, the tourism ministry reported that quantity surveying firm Davidson and Hanna had given the Tourism Product Development Company's bill of quantities the “thumbs up”, saying based on its market survey the $17-million price tag was in fact under-priced for the scope of the project.

On Saturday, Bartlett described the sign as an iconic attraction. “Those who think it was a scandal, I say to them the real scandal is the beauty that is there and the shame that those who might have expressed otherwise when Jamaica needs something as beautiful as that,” he said.

“I am excited about it because it's putting Montego Bay in line with all the centres of tourism across the world. I see more tourists taking pictures there these days; they send the videos to me and I see that it is only going to get better and better as we continue to build,” Bartlett added.

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