BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucea, Hanover - Member of Parliament for Western Hanover Ian Hayles has vowed to vigourously pursue his dream to have the town of Lucea developed into a tourism attraction.
"Lucea is said to be one of the oldest towns in the island and has a number of ancient buildings and natural resources. So what we really want to do is to develop it into a concept and sell it as a tourist product," he told the Observer West.
The MP said he has been busy over the past few weeks preparing the town for what he described as the "massive investments" that will be made there in the near future.
"The future really looks bright for Lucea. A lot of investors are eying the town and adjoining communities. So right now we have started to create the atmosphere where people can feel comfortable to do business," he explained.
Already, he said, roughly $7.5 million is being spent under Jamaica Employment Emergency Programme (JEEP) to give the town a much -needed face- lift. Under the programme, the garbage- strewn Venture Gutter which has been blamed on numerous occasions for the flooding of sections of the town is being cleaned, as well as several other drainage systems. Sections of the town are also being asphalted and cleaned.
Hayles said the move to get Lucea ready for the "massive investments" is being driven by the recently formed 11- member Lucea Restoration and Development Committee, chaired by well know Hanover businessman Lloyd Fraser.
Fraser told the Observer West yesterday that his group plans to "change the face" of Lucea.
"We all know the deplorable state of the town. There are several derelict buildings; old cars on the roadway; poorly maintained drains; lack of proper sewerage disposal and the poor condition of the market...... so we are really going to address those issues, while at the same time attract investors because we really have the interest of the town at heart," said Fraser of the broad-based committee.
Shernett Haughton, the new mayor of Lucea is also on board.
She pledged to work assiduously with the stakeholders to make the town of Lucea prosperous.
" I will be working very closely with the member of Parliament, my councillors and other stakeholders to get the town ready to facilitate the planned investments," she stressed.
Lucea, the capital of Hanover, sits on a beautiful harbour 25 miles west of Montego Bay and is located between that city and Negril — two of the Caribbean's most renowned tourist resort areas.
For many years, talks to devise strategies on how to capitalise on the thousands of tourists who pass through Lucea annually have failed to bear fruit. Apart from the handful of those who visit the Hanover museum - located on the site of a prison dating back to 1776 - the town is bypassed by visitors to the island.
But Hayles vowed yesterday to work to change that.
He argued that with a little initiative the town's attractions could support a vibrant tourist industry, adding that the existing Hanover Parish Council building as well as Fort Charlotte, and the Hanover museum could be developed into first-class tourist attractions.
He stressed that as part of the effort, he would renew the push for the development of the Lucea waterfront. Local business interests have long argued that the Lucea Harbour, once a shipping port, was capable of accommodating a viable cruise shipping industry that could help to stimulate economic growth in the parish.
The Western Hanover MP added that the development of the craft market in the town would also be high on the agenda. He said he would be initiating talks with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), and private sector interests with a view to getting the required assistance.
Hayles also plans to create what he described as "a hip strip" - similar to the one established years ago in the resort city of Montego Bay - in the town of Lucea.
"With the amount of tourists that pass through Lucea to go to Montego Bay and Negril on a daily basis, we will have to create a 'hip strip' so that tourists can spend time and shop in a beautiful environment," he argued.
There has, in recent years, been renewed interest in Lucea's development as a tourist destination. Four years ago, for example, Spain's Fiesta Hotel Group opened the 1,600-room Grand Palladium Resort and Spa at Point, three miles from the Hanover capital.
And just last year, the resort announced that it would be adding another 900 rooms to the facility.
A year before, a Dolphin Cove marina attraction was created in close proximity to Lucea, and plans have also been announced for the expansion of that project.