Tourism Minister Forecasts Growth For South Coast


Minister of Industry and Tourism, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, is forecasting growth of between 3.5 and 7 per cent for South Coast tourism in the next 10 years, as she seeks to build partnerships with overseas interests.
The Government’s Ten-Year Master Plan strongly focuses on sustainable development on Jamaica’s South Coast.
“Based on the performance of other nature-based destinations in the Caribbean that have doubled their tourist numbers in five years, we see a South Coast target of doubling its share of Jamaican tourism over the next 10 years from 3.5 per cent to 7 per cent as achievable,” the Minister told members of the Diplomatic Corps, recently at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
She said that although the South Coast was described as “off-the-beaten track”, increasingly, nature-lovers were discovering its pristine wetlands that are teeming with exotic flora and fauna.
“With the growing demand for nature-based tourism, the South Coast is poised for growth in attracting niche groups such as bird watchers, wildlife photographers, and those seeking a working holiday or edifying experience based on archaeology or conservation work,” she told the gathering in Kingston.
She cited the vast potential for development that resided in the South Coast, while noting the importance of careful management to allow persons to enjoy the economic benefits of the natural resources, while preserving those resources for future generations.
The South Coast of Jamaica extends from the Hellshire Hills west of Kingston to the eastern boundary of Negril and spans five parishes – Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine.
Mrs. Assamba told the diplomats that following Government’s undertaking to facilitate a planned approach to the expected growth in the tourism industry and to explore environmentally sustainable pathways to economic growth, the Inter-American Development Bank financed a study of the physical and socio-economic characteristics of the South Coast that was completed in 1999.
Dubbed the South Coast Sustainable Development Programme, the second phase involved the design of a project comprising Tourism Development, Protected Areas Management, Fisheries Improvement, as well as Capacity Building and Institutional Development.
“The Tourism Development component offers promising investment opportunities for citizens of your respective countries. For example, the town of Black River is strategically important to the South Coast and will form the hub for heritage trails going throughout that region,” the Minister said.
She touted the St. Elizabeth capital as providing a physical link between the centres of Negril and Montego Bay, from where access to central and eastern parts of the South Coast was not possible in a single day. The planned investments in Black River are aimed at enhancing the town’s reputation as a vibrant community in which to live and work.
Describing the island’s natural diversity as an “explorer’s dream”, the Minister added: “These eco-systems nurture Jamaica’s 3,800 species of flowering plants and fern, a quarter of them endemic”.
Some of the important eco-systems of the South Coast include, coastland wetlands, caves, limestone forests, rivers, springs and blue holes, swamps, near-shore cays, sea grass beds and coral reefs.
The programme aims to provide a framework for the natural and man-made environment and to achieve orderly and sustainable development of the South Coast. The plan includes land use designation to promote: best use and sustainable development of natural resources; protection and conservation of the terrestrial and marine environment; conservation of the cultural heritage; community development and improved health conditions; and diversification of economic activities.
Minister Assamba said she was looking forward to partnering with investors from the respective countries in this promising plan for the South Coast.She said Government has played an integral part in aggressively promoting the island overseas and this has resulted in the establishment of strong markets, particularly in the United States, Europe and Latin America.
The Minister is due to tour the South Coast on January 29 and 30, where she will have discussions with industry stakeholders, such as hoteliers and tour operators.

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