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Montego Bay, Jamaica, July 8, 2014: A process of transformation is underway in the resort city of Montego Bay, driven by funding from the Tourism Enhancement Fund. The former civic centre in Sam Sharpe Square exemplifies this process as it becomes the Montego Bay Cultural centre housing the National Art Gallery West, a museum, a space for the performing arts and a bistro. The centre will be officially opened to the public on Friday, July 11.
Through its funding of this and other developments that enhance the city’s character and preserve its cultural heritage, the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) is assisting Montego Bay’s civic leadership in achieving a transformation of the city.
In the past year alone, the TEF has underwritten several multi-million projects in Montego Bay. The list includes conversion of the Civic Centre, restoration and beautification of the historical Dome, and renovation of the Harbour Street and Fort craft markets.
Close attention is also being given to the city’s landscape and to this end the TEF is also funding beautification of the AGS Coombs Highway (Bogue Road) and Montego Bay’s Elegant Corridor which spans the hotel development area.
The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) performs the role of implementing agency for these projects and where appropriate, partners with other agencies, among them the St. James Parish Council, the National Works Agency and Western Parks and Markets with oversight by the Montego Bay Resort Board.
A Montego Bay Arts Council chaired by hotelier Josef Forstmayr is monitoring the $42 million conversion of the Civic Centre to give the resort city two new art galleries and its own museum displaying artefacts mounted by the Institute of Jamaica and the National Heritage Trust.
In a complementary move, the TEF has partnered with the parish council in a $9-million rehabilitation of The Dome, preserving it as a landmark of Montego Bay’s first domestic water supply source. The spring from which the water sprang, was discovered by two little girls chasing a crab over 200 years ago. The sound of a splash as the crab bolted into a hole under a huge rock alerted the children who took the good news into their community.
TEF is an arm of the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment and according to the minster, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, the agency’s funds are being expended on areas such as Montego Bay because “we need to ensure that our product is the best it can be.” He is cognizant that “to be competitive you have to be constantly upgrading that product.”
Minister McNeill is also clear that “What makes us different is our culture and heritage.”
It is with this in mind that the projects being funded by the TEF have been approved and are being implemented.
Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Glendon Harris is pleased with the impact the TEF has been making on the city and looks forward to a continued partnership.
“Montego Bay being the tourism capital of the Caribbean the Tourism Enhancement Fund is truly enhancing the tourism product here in Montego Bay and St. James on a whole. Some well needed injection has been given by the TEF and we have to say a big thanks to the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the chairman the TEF, the executive director and his team; they are truly partners in bringing Montego Bay to the level that it ought to be at,” says Mayor Harris.
Going forward, Mayor Harris says “this partnership can only grow from strength to strength. What we have been doing is utilising the fund to the best of our ability to avoid any waste and any overruns so that we ensure value for money. “
He is also particularly pleased that while the Fund targets tourism related areas, it seeks to ensure that there is benefit for the local people and to that end, disclosed that tender is out for design of the development of Providence Beach Park “so they are really looking out for the resort areas and for the people in the area to make them comfortable because if they are not, the tourist will not be comfortable either.”
Lloyd B. Smith, Member of Parliament for St. James Central which encompasses a large portion of Montego Bay, notes, “Overall, I think that the interest in terms of the actualization of these very meaningful projects will help to enhance the aesthetics of Montego Bay as well as to provide a certain level of civic pride and indeed economic empowerment in the case of the craft markets and the civic centre which will create job opportunity.”
Smith adds, however, that a certain amount of public consultation and education should accompany these projects so that people can have a greater level of appreciation for them and protect them from vandalism or unnecessary anti-social behaviour because we have seen in the past when we establish these structures and these entities, that they do not enjoy the full support of the citizenry who may just see them as governments and certain people benefitting by way of getting a contract or a job but they do not look at the bigger picture of what these projects will do in enhancing the socio-economic and cultural life of the city.”
In that context, Smith says it is up to the citizens “to ensure that we get value for money.” He adds, “As Member of Parliament one of my concerns taxpayers money must be well spent; too often we have seen overrun or short cut measures so when the project is completed you do not get what you really had anticipated. So I think it’s important as a community that we monitor these projects and ensure that at the end of the day we get value for money and what were the objectives are in fact achieved.”