Robins Bay poised for investment

Tourism minister upbeat after touring St Mary village's largest hotel

Staff reporter

Sunday, July 14, 2019

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The quaint township of Robins Bay, which sits on St Mary's north-easterly coast, is slated to be back on track for tourism investment, after years of languishing at the expense of residents and local investors who are looking to capitalise on the community's surreal ocean view and picturesque coastline.

Robins Bay Village and Beach Resort for example, which over the years developed a reputation for being a low-key, scenic getaway for tourists and locals alike before having to close its doors in 2012, has now been reopened with an emphasis “rustic luxury”.

Businessman and owner of the cliff-side resort, Everoy Chin told the Jamaica Observer during a tour of the facility last Saturday that the property has been upgraded to accommodate more visitors, with an additional 90 rooms to be added on an adjoining property.

The news was welcomed by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, who was visiting the facility last Saturday with a team of technocrats from the ministry who have been charged to develop key tourism destinations along the coast and hinterlands, east of Oracabessa.

“Jamaica is hot. I spoke to an investor this morning all the way in Ibiza who is into the entertainment tourism, and this is an area for that,” said Bartlett. Noting its ideal location, Bartlett said Robins Bay was poised for investment.

“Robin's Bay is an ideal area for entertainment tourism. You have three different types of beach colouration coming around here which gives you the black, white and brown sand. You also have that alcove that has the beautiful turquoise water, and then you have the effect of the Pagee river. These are hugely important geophysical attributes of Robins Bay [which] can definitely be converted into tremendous experiences for tourists.”

However, Chin pointed to crucial infrastructural amenities that are lacking in the area, in particular, proper roads, street lights, and piped water.

“Robins Bay is the only cove along the coast from Montego Bay to St Mary where there is no development. In the late 1960s going into the 70s, Strawberry Fields, as the area was once called, was popular throughout Europe and North America because of the hippies who established a tropical getaway in the bay. But right now Robins Bay is a sleeping monster that needs to be re-awakened,” Chin said.

He explained that the lack of street lights poses security concerns for not just visitors, but also residents in the community who are employed at the resort.

Because of overfishing in the bay, Chin said the livelihood of local fisherfolk had been decimated, while agriculture has since become a matter of subsistence. He argued, therefore, that tourism is the way forward in resurrecting the beachside community.

“Tourism is the only way to revive this Robins Bay, to have it take its rightful place among the industrial townships in Jamaica. We have a lot to offer to the community but we need the facilitation of the Government,” Chin emphasised.

Taking stock of the challenges, Bartlett said the ministry was on a mission to redouble its efforts to capitalise on the tourism assets in St Mary.

“The visit has been an eye-opener in terms of the range and quality of the tourism assets that are in St Mary that are now begging for development, and for presentation to the world. I also took note of the infrastructure weaknesses, because connecting to these potential destinations is as important as the destinations themselves,” Bartlett told the Sunday Observer.

Bartlett, who, along with his team, toured potential areas for investment stretching from Oracabessa to Port Maria and beyond, said that Robins Bay is an ideal location for retreats and conventions.

“As well as just to build out a whole lifestyle here... because of how it is located, away from much of the hustle and bustle and mainstream activity in the parish and the way that the ocean caresses this area, it is an ideal place for so many things. We pay tribute to Everoy Chin who has persevered with it and has done well to build a number of structures here.

“There is also enough land around this facility and in the community that we can do winter vegetables that can supply this hotel, at least. This would involve the community and make for greater inclusiveness, as well as for the community to feel a part of the tourism activity and protect it,” said the minister.

Bartlett also said that the entire area from Oracabessa east into Port Antonio has been designated for a new type of tourism, with an emphasis on a “low-density and low-carbon foot print, that will attract a higher demographic looking for a more rustic luxury offering.

“The all-inclusive concept has done very well for us, from west of Oracabessa all the way to Westmoreland. Now we are looking at different brands for the other destinations,” stated Bartlett.

He assured that the problems with infrastructure will be addressed in short order with the assistance of the St Mary Municipal Corporation.

“We asked the mayor to have his superintendents of works come and do an estimate of the roads leading into Strawberry Fields. We had discussions about the water for the area, which he will also have discussions with the NWC regards the distribution into this area. We are also going to look at street lights from our end and to see how TPDCo can help with that. The water involves a little more, but that will be dealt with also.

“Once these key infrastructure developments are in place we believe that it will allow for more investment to flow into the area and will encourage more people to visit and have events. The whole area, I believe, once the infrastructure is taken care of, is ready for take-off. We think that there is a new day coming for a number of destinations in Jamaica that have been languishing,” said Bartlett.

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