Regional

More Pressure

Calls intensify for improvements to MoBay's 'Hip Strip'

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, August 10, 2017



Executive director of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Dennis Chung, has joined the growing number of critics expressing disappointment over the deteriorating condition of the “Hip Strip, Montego Bay's premier tourism area.

“I was there a few weeks ago, and I was embarrassed to see the condition of the Hip Strip. It really should be a lot more than that. We can't have a situation — and this for me is a major eyesore — you can't have a situation where your most famous tourism attraction you have vendors selling under the bus stop. It's crazy! You have people can't walk. It's just ridiculous!” Chung remarked.

Only last week, Sandals Resort International Deputy Chairman and CEO Adam Stewart, endorsed a call by Montego Bay hotelier Robin Russell for the authorities to get serious about improving conditions along Gloucester Avenue, known as the Hip Strip.

“I have been a full-time resident of Montego Bay for the past 15 years and over this time I have witnessed the steady decline whilst a blind eye is turned to the issues plaguing our number one main street opportunity,” Stewart said. “Montego Bay is the tourist capital of Jamaica and it is time that we hold hands as private and public sector partners and deal with the issues that have been articulated time and again and continue to stare us in the face,” he added.

Meanwhile, delivering the keynote address at the launch of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) EXPO 2017, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Tuesday, Chung cited poor local governance for the steady decay of the Hip Strip.

“While tourism has been growing, another thing that was not done enough of is local planning. And we haven't done it for instance in relation to infrastructure in Montego Bay in the downtown region and the famous Hip Strip where I see some work is being done now. But I think one of the main challenges we face is really poor local planning in the country. We underestimate the importance of local governance,” Chung argued.

He further expressed the need for the creation of improved infrastructure “to support businesses”.

“And since I am in Montego Bay, I once again refer to the Hip Strip, which the local government has allowed to languish because of lack of infrastructure investment and the prevalence of indiscipline. So instead of a hotel room going for US$500 per night, which it should on the Hip Strip, it goes for US$200 per night. What this means when you do that, is that when you don't have the support in infrastructure and environment to create an attractive place. You actually taking two-and-a-half times more effort to earn the income than what you would have to do,” he argued.

“So does it make sense then to try and maximise the returns you have rather than constantly going out and seeking to get the investment which is really more effort to get the same result.”

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett recently announced a multi-million infrastructure upgrade for the Hip Strip.

In the meantime, the MBCCI biennial trade show will have its 17th staging from October 13 to 15 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, under the theme “Connecting Industries…Building Together”.

Co-chairman of Expo 2017 Brian Brown said he was pleased to announce that for the first time in its staging, the Expo has attracted a title sponsor, pointing out that Yello Media is coming on board in that capacity.

According to Brown, “the focus of Expo 2017 will be on Jamaica's service industry, particularly tourism and hospitality, construction, the business processing outsourcing/information and communications technology, energy, agriculture and the creative industries. This year's staging of Expo will also feature robust business-to-business networking, fostered by JAMPRO, under the Invest MoBay initiative. A focal point of Expo 2017 will be an area dedicated to MSMEs and start-ups, with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) being engaged to offer support.”

Jamaica Ambassador to the United States of America, Audrey Marks has been invited to deliver the keynote address at the opening ceremony of Expo 2017, and to lead a business delegation from the US to the trade show.

President of the MBCCI, T'Shura Gibbs said exhibitors and sponsors can expect even greater offerings from Expo 2017, as the team over the weeks leading up to Expo 2017, will be unveiling some revamped promotional activities; presenting even more outlets to exhibitors to showcase their products and services, while further endearing the trade show to the public.

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