US$746-million tourism plan for St ThomasThursday, October 14, 2021
BY ASHAGAYE MULLINGS
MORANT BAY, St Thomas — Residents of St Thomas are hoping the Government's ambitious US$746-million tourism plan will transform it from the “forgotten parish” and spark a long-awaited rebirth.
“We need at least US$205 million of public investment in order to execute this plan. Privately, we need another US$508 million, and for a public partnership we need US$33 million. That is just to execute the plan for tourism within the parish,” Daryl Whyte-Wong, the Tourism Product Developmemt Company's (TPDCo) destination manager for St Thomas, told an event held in the parish on Monday to mark Heritage Month and the Morant Bay War.
In April, Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett had promised that the then-completed plan would be unveiled in the 2021/2022 fiscal year. He said then that the plan would see 51 projects implemented over the next decade, up to 2030. Forty of those projects would be spearheaded by the tourism ministry. The projects planned are expected to position St Thomas as a new tourist destination and expand the scope of the country's attractions and accommodations, making Jamaica more appealing to a wide cross section of visitors.
The plan, Whyte-Wong said, had been two years in the making and there had been extensive consultation with residents of the parish.
“The approach to St Thomas cannot be [the] Government comes in and just do what they feel like; it has to be from the community up… Even in doing this development plan I have visited almost every community in St Thomas, along with consultants from George Washington University, along with individuals from Ministry of Tourism… We have had seminars in almost every community in the parish,” Whyte-Wong stressed.
Residents, in community groups that were later formed into three geographically designated clusters, provided input on how well known sites such Bath Fountain and the Bath Botanical Garden will be handled.
“There are aspects of the plan that will incorporate that entity. There is also somewhere like Stony Gut and the Paul Bogle statue that will tie into the courthouse… which will create a heritage trail between those entities and will be in cluster one,” said Whyte-Wong.
Cluster one is also expected to include a museum. There are three clusters in total, covering heritage sites, beaches and attractions, as well as heritage trails.
“The beauty… is that this parish does not only offer sand, sea and sun like every other parish, but it also offers the most deposits of heritage that we have in Jamaica. There is no other parish that has the history that St Thomas has, and [it is] also untouched. Stokes Hall Great House is still there and that is one of the oldest foundations in the English-speaking Caribbean — and there is a history behind that,” said Whyte-Wong.