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Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, says the Ministry is currently engaging stakeholders in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios in discussions, to determine how best to re-position the cruise shipping industry in those resort areas.

This is being done against the background of what he describes as a fall off in the number of cruise ship visitors arriving at those ports, in the wake of the opening of the Falmouth Cruise Pier in Trelawny.

Speaking at a recent Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Think Tank’, Dr. McNeill cited the significant increase in overall cruise ship visitor arrivals, which stood at 1,073,794 for the 10-month period, between January and October. This represents an

11.2 per cent increase over the 848,237 visitors coming to Jamaica during the corresponding period in 2011.

“We have done extraordinarily well. Our arrivals have been increasing exponentially, largely because of the advent of the Falmouth Cruise Ship Pier. However what has been happening is that Montego Bay and Ocho Rios have remained about flat. So, while Jamaica is doing better, and Falmouth is doing better, there has been some influence on the others,” he outlined.

Dr. McNeill said arising from discussions which he and Tourism Director, John Lynch, had with stakeholders in Montego Bay, a suggestion has been put forward to pursue and market possible implementation of home porting arrangements for a number of the vessels making calls to Jamaica. Home porting entails arrangements for vessels to register to a port facility, which will serve as its home berthing base.         

Regarding Ocho Rios, the Tourism Minister pointed out that “we want to expand what’s coming” to that town.

“We have been in discussion with the Chamber of Commerce, with the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), with the Resort Board, and with our partners there, specifically the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Port Authority of Jamaica and the Parish Council on the matter,” he informed, while pointing to a fleet of vessels expected to commence docking at that town’s port in 2013.

Dr. McNeill advised that the facilities in Ocho Rios were toured some two weeks ago, during which discussions were held with several developers on how best these can be enhanced.

“What we are looking at is to see whether we can come to some consensus and some real plans to go forward. Things may have to be (undertaken) on a phased basis. But, we have to put something on the table, and we are looking to see what plans can be done to help Ocho Rios, working closely with the Port Authority and the UDC,” the Minister said.