'Back Road' to get hip strip status as Portmore looks to tourism

By INGRID BROWN Observer senior reporter

Monday, December 14, 2009    

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PORTMORE, St Catherine, with its mass of underdeveloped waterfront properties could soon be contributing to the country's tourism earnings, as the community dubbed the largest in the English-speaking Caribbean prepares to enter the tourism arena.

Portmore's mayor, Keith Hinds, is pushing ahead to develop a tourism product for the municipality.

Port Henderson main road, Rodney's Arms restaurant, Two Sister Caves and the Fort Clarence Beach in Hellshire are among the facilities being touted to feature significantly in this package.

The mayor said he will be looking at the construction of a car race track among other things in the long term, but singled out the Port Henderson main road, popularly known as 'Back Road' as an area for immediate development.

This will include changing the image of 'Back Road', now known as a hang-out spot for prostitutes. According to Hinds, the police have already been clearing that strip of these women.

The mayor explained that a council in England, which they are seeking to partner with, has committed to funding the development of 'Back Road' into a hip strip.

A team from that council, he told the Observer, is expected to arrive in the island later this year to fine-tune arrangements.

"The road (Back Road) does offer the best place for entertainment within the city and it is also an area outside of the residential areas and one of the most important strips of road in terms of expensive waterfront property that has been underutilised for many years," Hinds said.

Hinds said many of the hotels now situated along the Port Henderson main road can receive at least one-star ratings.

"They are sitting on the waterfront and so what they need is assistance from the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and for them to be engaged by the tourism ministry," said Hinds.

Jacqui Sanguine, regional director of TPDCo, told the Observer that while they have heard the ideas the mayor has for developing the tourism product in the municipality, a written proposal has not yet been received by that entity.

"It is my opinion, though, that some of the ideas Mr Hinds has are workable," she said, adding that the Port Henderson strip could be a lovely spot for tourism development.

Product quality director of TPDCo Deanne Keating Campbell said her department is willing to facilitate any tourism entity to meet tourism standards.

The product quality department works with tourism players to ensure they meet the Jamaica Tourist Board's licensing criteria.

Keating Campbell, however, noted that there are no special programmes currently ongoing for Port Henderson Road and as such it is treated like any other area.

"Once they approach us in writing, then we sit down at the table and the first thing is to have them tell us what they have and would like to do and we determine how we can facilitate them," she said.

But the development of Portmore into an established tourism resort area may even surpass the visions of the mayor as tourism minister Edmund Bartlett is already examining the possibilities of developing the Manatee Bay area into an exclusive tourism product.

Manatee Bay is a prime waterfront property which extends beyond Hellshire.

The minister said he has since taken potential investors there to scout out the area.

"Manatee Bay has tremendous potential for tourism development and one which could be developed into a new frontier," Bartlett said.

According to Bartlett, Portmore has great potential for tourism development, as the community with its already great dormitory areas would be a good catchment for tourist workers.




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