PORTLAND: The drive to see Port Antonio reassert its status as a major resort town has received a boost with the recent presentation of more than $4 million by Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeill.
The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), an agency of the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, provided a cheque of $4.4 million which Dr. McNeill handed to the Mayor of Portland, Councillor Benny White, during a brief ceremony at the Craft Village. During the ceremony, McNeill also presented a second cheque, valued at $231,000 to President of the Rio Grande raft captains, Leroy Miller.
In presenting the cheques, McNeill fulfilled a promise made to assist in the renovation of key tourism facilities when he toured the town on October 31, a few days following the passage of Hurricane Sandy over Jamaica.
McNeill said Portland is where tourism began in Jamaica. According to the minister, activities such as rafting are iconic in Portland and need to be preserved.
“Portland is the home of rafting, it is unique to Jamaica, so we must ensure that the standard of what we have here is maintained at a certain level,” said McNeill.
In October, McNeill addressed the renovation plans for the Craft Village and Neville Antonio Park. The Craft Village is intended to be functional by Christmas through remedial work to clear and secure the grounds. Plans for the medium to long term include the building of a sea wall along with major sewage work at the facility. The Neville Antonio Park will undergo general restoration work. Plans for the park include refurbishing the amphitheatre, restrooms and fencing, as well as landscaping and the erection of a stage.
Accompanying McNeill through the town were State Minister for Tourism and Entertainment, Damion Crawford; members of the Resort Board, representatives of TEF, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), other Ministry and government officials and representatives of community groups.
The renovation project in Port Antonio is to be undertaken by TPDCo.