Negril wants Government help to protect tourism product
Business leaders in Negril, Westmoreland, want the Government to enact stronger laws to protect the island’s tourism product, including to ensure that all persons seeking to earn from the hospitality do so legally and in an orderly manner.
Richard Wallace, the immediate past president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, believes that the challenge currently being faced in the resort town requires strong action to bring about a permanent fix.
“Safety and security on the beach in the entire space – West End and everywhere – is a perennial challenge for us. We need stronger laws that can protect the tourism product,” the businessman said after a meeting that National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang had with stakeholders in Negril on Tuesday.
While a planned imposition of new rules to maintain order in the town is likely to impact some persons economically, Wallace stressed that the hoteliers and other business owners in Negril are not seeking to hurt anyone, especially Jamaicans seeking to earn a living through tourism, but that a free-for-all is not ideal.
“What we would like to do is recruit them because some of them are doing things in a way that is hurting the industry, and we need them to understand that,” he said, referring to some persons seeking to cash in on the sector through unsanctioned means, including by offering horseback rides with the animals galloping – at times even racing – along famous bathing beach triggering panic among beach-goers.
“We need for them to be willing to be trained and to be engaged in a way it does not harm the tourism product,” said Wallace.
Daniel Grizzle, managing director of Charela Inn Hotel, expressed concern that the town has grown much faster than other resorts in Jamaica, seemingly without an effective plan to handle the factors associated with such a boom.
“Nobody truly knows the correct size of Negril at the moment – the number of people, the number of small businesses. We are leading the country in terms of small business, and we are leading the country in terms of how our economic power is growing. We need the infrastructure to support it,” Grizzle argued.
A GROWING COMMUNITY
He noted that over the last decade, Negril has featured high among the top 10 beaches in the world, a factor he is now using to appeal to the Government to protect the town’s appeal and reputation.
“It’s a growing community. We are always going to have little problems, but it is not things that cannot be solved,” said Grizzle.
The businessman strongly believes that if more of Negril’s financial contribution to the nation’s coffers were reinvested in the town, it would be able to provide significantly more than it currently does.
“[Negril tourism investors] alone could generate 50 per cent of what the country has generated in tourism last year. We could grow by another 50 per cent. All we need is a little help. All we need is for the Government to invest a little more because they can reap [several] times the benefit in five years,” said Grizzle.
Negril is the island’s second-largest direct employer of tourism workers, with approximately 12,000 employees, and remains a major source of tourism revenue.
In 2021, the destination raked in some US$1 billion in earnings.
Last year, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett projected that the country is poised to generate US$5 billion in earnings from tourism for the 2023 calendar year based on the current trend in the industry.