Rafters restless

Rafters restless

Group says poor marketing, management killing visitor attraction in Portland

Senior staff reporter

Monday, December 09, 2019

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RAFTERS in St Margaret's Bay, east Portland, are forecasting a bleak Christmas as revenues over the last three years have virtually dried up, signalling the need for “better marketing strategies”, they say.

The group of mostly men, some whose careers span three decades, voiced their frustration in an interview with Jamaica Observer North & East last Wednesday during a visit to the parish.

This is the second time in recent years that the men have raised concerns about the “dying industry”.

The men, who satidly by the entrance to Rafters Rest, which is operated by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), reported that of the 16 cruise ships projected to call on Port Antonio between November and March 2020, three have so far cancelled while only three made calls.

They blame TPDCo, with which they have a contractual arrangement to promote the business.

Under the arrangement, TPDCo is expected to attract customers by marketing the area as a attraction for tourists, but the men are not convinced that enough is being done in that regard.

TPDCo Executive Director Dr Andrew Spence could not be reached for comment.

“Them time yah tourists supposed to a come in. Whole heap supposed to a come in, but fi couple years now none not coming. It standstill, you know,” said Antonio Pearson.

In previous years, his colleague Donald Richards stated, each rafter would be occupied with at least five trips on the Rio Grande per week, totalling $55,000.

Each trip amounts to $11,000 per customer. TPDCo retains $4,200 of that figure for the Government, $1,300 as savings for the rafters, leaving them with $5,500 per trip. Each trip lasts for approximately three hours.

“Everything dry up,” Richards stressed, “It's a rotation weh wi call number down. So once your number call yuh going get your trip, but now, sometimes for the week, sometimes for 10 days some of wi nuh get nuh work.”

Scores have quit the business as a result, Observer North and East was told, and others are contemplating a similar move.

For them, it's simply not worth their time and energy any more.

“[It's] poor marketing. TPDCo need fi come wid better marketing strategies. Right now a TPDCo a run it and when a private man did have it wi used to have business. Now, a them a run it, come een like seh them nuh business at all. When a private man a run it, him go out and look him business but because a Government a run it, it come een like them just sit back. Them not going out go look nuh business. Them not aggressive enough wid tourism a Portland,” Louis Morgan expressed.

“First time yuh used to have like tour bus a come from Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, like seh maybe five times a week. Now wi have maybe only one. The marketing nuh good, you know?” Morgan added.

Approximately 85 rafters are affected.

“Man will leave out because him naah go can stay in it and maintain him family. So him affi move on. Right now a we affi look business fi wi self; if not, a man will leave here with zero dollars fi the month. We affi go out and tell people and give them wi number and mek them know rafting deh bout and so in order fi wi get likkle business, or friend tell friend,” Richards explained.

“The Rio Grande rafting, to me, is a good business. It's just a handful of something them have to buy to put inna the business and it's just a handful of workers them affi pay different from the raft men. So to me it's a good business, but the somebody who have it affi just go out and look the business,” he reasoned.

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