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I must confess that even though I am from the west, I am fascinated by the special charm of Portland. Portlanders can justifiably boast of having one of the most beautiful parishes in an island declared to be the fairest isle eyes have ever seen.
Being here today is therefore an occasion that I’ve been looking forward to, both on a personal level and as Minister of Tourism and Entertainment.
As one of the earliest resort areas, Portland has attracted the rich and famous from across the globe, one notable example being renowned film star Errol Flynn. On that note, I must pause to pay tribute to Mrs. Patrice Wymore Flynn, his widow who passed away recently here in Portland. We must not lose sight of the fact that Mrs. Flynn, who was herself a well known film, television and stage actress, chose Port Antonio as home over the many famous cities of Europe and North America that she had at her disposal.
It is interesting to note this because one of the reasons we are here today is to hand over the refurbished Portland Craft Village. This is just one of several projects that the Tourism Product Development Company, with funding from the Tourism Enhancement Fund, has undertaken in a concerted effort to revive this once vibrant township and restore its place as an enchanting resort town.
The facilities that are being handed over also include the Neville Antonio Park, Berrydale Road and Berrydale Embarkation Jetty, all of which have so far been funded by the TEF to the tune of over 48 million dollars.
As Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, I must commend the Portland Parish Council, TPDCo, TEF and other tourism partners for their commitment to ensuring that such well needed infrastructural improvements were carried out.
The mandate of this government is to encourage development that will improve the quality of life of the people and recognizing the pivotal role that tourism plays in this regard, through the TEF, we have been able to contribute significantly to the fulfillment of this mission.
We fully appreciate that we cannot truly grow the tourism sector unless the Jamaican people feel its impact directly and that is why we are committed to ensuring that when the TEF finances a project, the Jamaican people, and in particular the community in which a project is carried out, are primary beneficiaries.
I am confident that the work carried out on these projects will redound to the benefit of the many Jamaicans who live in or visit Portland. I know the rafts-men must be particularly happy that at long last their cries for improvement to the road and the jetty have been heard.
Motorists, especially tour operators are also quite happy but not as much as my friends from the Portland Craft Village who have been clamoring for improved conditions in which to trade their craft.
We believe the time has come for craft traders to see themselves as business people and not just roaming vendors, and following consultations with them and other players in the sector, we are forging ahead with plans to ultimately introduce a Craft Policy which will see the industry being regulated by a Craft Authority.
Buy-in to the strategy has been overwhelming and we have every reason to believe that with the full co-operation of all stakeholders, Jamaica’s craft industry is on the road to becoming a greater facet of our tourism industry.
These four projects here in Portland and the many others undertaken across the country, truly exemplify how the tourism sector benefits the average Jamaican as the TEF moves aggressively to fund improvement projects of this nature, as well as iconic transformational projects.
As I indicated earlier, these infrastructural improvements were deliberately undertaken at this time as my Ministry is pressing ahead with its ongoing effort to revitalize the tourism infrastructure of Portland and to facilitate its renaissance as a global tourism hot-spot.
Led by Errol and Patrice Flynn, Port Antonio was once the playground for Hollywood jetsetters. We see this happening again.
We recognize that with a strategy of joined up government, much more can be achieved and in this regard, Your Worship, the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, on behalf of TEF and TPDCo, express deep appreciation to you and your council for partnering with us in undertaking these projects.
The success of this initiative is proof of the power of partnership in fostering development, and this is why we continue to encourage partnerships of this nature, especially with the private sector to spur investment in our tourism sector.
I am pleased to see that there is renewed interest by the private sector to invest in Portland, and remain confident that the growth we have been experiencing in visitor arrivals will be felt in this parish as well.
We are seeing a thrust in the development of health and wellness tourism locally and given its serene environment and numerous natural attractions, I believe Portland is ideal for the development of this form of tourism, so I just want to throw that out to investors who are eyeing this resort area.
In closing I must underscore that this country is truly a tourism gold mine; with a rich cultural heritage, a cadre of workers that is second to none, appealing attractions, hospitable people, and some of the best accommodations to be found anywhere.
At the level of government we are committed to doing everything possible to help the industry realize its true potential. We intend to bring to bear all the resources and energies that are required to make it work, and the completion of these projects is a prime example. I am very pleased to be here today to hand-over these facilities and I look forward to many more successful initiatives of this nature as we seek to revitalize and transform our tourism product.