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Kingston, Jamaica: March 12, 2015 – The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment on Tuesday (March 10) outlined proposals to redevelop Montego Bay’s popular ‘Hip Strip’ and return it to the vibrant hot spot that it was in its ‘glory days’.
The ‘Hip Strip’ is a two mile coastal route adjacent to the Sangster International Airport that encompasses Gloucester Avenue and Kent Avenue. It has featured prominently in Montego Bay’s tourism product.
Speaking to a group of the city’s business owners, representatives of government and partner agencies at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, said that it was time to move from “talk and policy to action”.
“We have the plans and now we have to decide on what are we going to achieve and how are we going to achieve it,” Minister McNeill said, pointing out that the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Jennifer Griffith, has been charged with the responsibility of coordinating all stakeholders that are integral to the redevelopment process. This will include getting agreement on a plan of action, prioritizing agreed actions and determining roles and responsibilities.
“This is the second meeting in two months.At the last meeting (in February) we came to the conclusion that some issues are priority areas that need to be addressed.Investment is critical; we need to upgrade the existing product; and we need to ensure that what’s on the ground is productive,” said Minister McNeill. He singled out traffic congestion, Close Harbour Beach (Dump-up Beach), the ‘closed’ hotels, the rebuilding of groynes to prevent further beach erosion, and infrastructure improvements to Montego Freeport as areas needing special attention.
Permanent Secretary Griffith gave an overview of a number of identified projects needed to improve the overall physical appearance and create a distinctive character for the ‘Hip Strip’. The area targeted for revitalization is the strip that extends from Dead End Beach on Kent Avenue, along Gloucester Avenue to the Pier One restaurant complex. The plan includes physical improvements; new product development; specific concepts to address safety and security, patron access and mobility; and themed entertainment and recreation.
Chairman of Montego Bay’s Wexford Court Hotel and Aquasol Beach Park, Mr. Carlisle Allan, described the meeting as a very important step in the right direction for to the development of Montego Bay’s tourism product.“It was not just talk; there were practical solutions to the problems we business owners are facing.As a stakeholder I am impressed and I commend the organizers of the meeting,” Mr. Allan said.
Integral to implementation of agreed action areas will be the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO), and partner agencies including the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), and the National Works Agency (NWA). For the vision of the ‘Hip Strip’ to be realised, it is critical for the private sector stakeholders to see themselves as change agents and commit to the necessary financial investment in their properties.