St Thomas poised for tourism development
St Thomas is to be positioned as a premier tourism destination that involves creating and delivering iconic brand experiences and attractions.
A tourism development plan for the parish, which was laid in Parliament last month, states that the aim is to "create unique experiences that will attract visitors to explore the parish and experience its diverse, natural ecosystem, new and compelling man-made attractions, its historical and cultural sites, and to have genuine interactions with the local community".
A timetable has not yet been established for the developments to begin in the so-called 'forgotten parish. Tourism development was identified as an ideal for the parish, which is earmarked to get a new urban centre in Morant Bay, and road upgrades that will connect Kingston to Port Antonio in Portland via St Thomas.
The plan's purpose is to inspire more people to visit, stay over, and spend more money in St Thomas. The parish is home to 3.5 per cent of Jamaica's population and receives less than a quarter of one per cent of all tourists visiting Jamaica.
But research done by the tourism ministry found that St Thomas features a rich mix of natural and cultural heritage resources that could boost its position in the tourism space.
The most popular existing attractions, based on the ministry's initial assessment, are the Blue Mountain Peak, Reggae Falls, Bath Fountain Hotel & Spa, Morant Point Lighthouse, and Lyssons Beach.
The St Thomas development plan involves the creation of the Morant Bay Historic District, which will see the restoration of historic buildings and monuments in Morant Bay Square in order to commemorate the town's rich history, as well as the life of National Heroes Paul Bogle and George William Gordon.
MAJOR RECREATIONAL FACILITY
There are also plans for the development of a saltwater park and nature reserve at Cow Bay. This attraction would become a major recreational facility that would be used for hosting events such as parties and concerts at the lagoon.
It would also have a water park with slides and pools; seafood court; staging point for scuba diving; and wildlife tours.
A Rocky Point Public Beach Park has also been proposed. The Rocky Point Beach would be developed into a public beach park to complement the other public beaches, such as Lyssons Beach and Rudolph Elder Park.
In addition, the Morant Point Lighthouse will be upgraded as an official attraction with amenities to support visitors. And the Great Morass will be developed to accommodate low-impact activities that allow viewing and exploration of the ecosystem.
Even as proposals are on the table for the development of the parish, there are some major challenges that have been identified in the report to Parliament. Chief among them is the poor state of the road infrastructure.
In addition, most product assets are said to be in need of further development, water distribution and sewage and solid-waste management systems are inadequate, and community readiness and understanding of the market is deemed to be low.