Fate of Jamaica’s former cruise ship capital needs immediate attention – Joe Issa

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Executive Chairman of Cool Corp, Joe Issa, who once led the chamber of commerce which looks after the affairs of Ocho Rios, says the fate of the former cruise ship capital of Jamaica needs to be address immediately, according to the lead story in The Gleaner newspaper on December 1, 2014 at http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20141201/lead/lead1.html.

Joseph John Issa

Executive Chairman of Cool Corp, Joe Issa, who once led the chamber of commerce which looks after the affairs of Ocho Rios, says the fate of the former cruise ship capital of Jamaica needs to be address immediately, according to the lead story in The Gleaner newspaper on December 1, 2014 at http://jamaica-gleaner.com/ gleaner/20141201/lead/lead1.html.

Issa’s statement comes as he reacts to news that the port of Ocho Rios in Jamaica, once a heaven for cruise ships, would for the first begin to welcome only cruise liners, when Carnival Cruise Lines moves its mega liners to Royal Caribbean's Falmouth Port next summer, due to “Next June, Ocho Rios will only be visited by one ship for the entire month” and the better facilities offered by the Falmouth Port.

The summer business, which commences about the end of April and winds up between the end of October and the first week of November, according to the article, will see the Ocho Rios cruise ship pier receiving an average of three ships per month and Falmouth welcoming almost 100,000 passengers from mega liner Carnival Breeze or 14-18 ships per month.

Speaking at The Gleaner Editors’ Forum at the Ocho Rios Mystic Ridge attraction on November 26, to discuss the latest news with tourism stakeholders, Issa recalled a time gone bye when cruise ship passengers crowded the streets of the resort town and kept shop tills ringing.

Says Issa: “Next summer will be the worst in 20 years…Ocho Rios, 15 to 20 years ago, boasted more than 800,000 cruise ship passengers annually. Those numbers have dropped to 400,000."
Adding that the numbers will be reduced significantly with one ship calling sporadically in summer 2015, Issa says, “The situation needs to be addressed immediately."

Head of cruise shipping at the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), William Tatham, also shares Issa’s concerns, admitting at the forum that Ocho Rios will experience a significant drop in its numbers, informing that Falmouth will receive an average of 10,000 to 12,000 passengers per week next summer, while Ocho Rios may welcome approximately 2,000 passengers three times per week.

According to the article, Ocho Rios' cruise ship numbers have dwindled since the construction of the Falmouth Pier in 2011, resulting in the closure of many retail businesses, with the unattractiveness of the port being blamed for the current situation.

But Issa’s call for the situation to be addressed immediately, finds relief in Tatham’s remarks that talks are ongoing with Carnival to have them return to the tourist resort, stating, “We are very optimistic that changes will come about with the implementation of the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment's anti-harassment committee…inevitably, a great number of the Carnival passengers will end up in Ocho Rios owing to the attractions that the cruise line does business with.”

Citing Dunn's Rive Falls, Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove as the main attractions which Carnival does business with, Tatham says, “However, the retail operators may be the ones mainly affected.”

The most popular tourist attractions in Jamaica are located in the Ocho Rios area, according to another Gleaner article published on December 1, 2014 at http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner /20141201/lead/lead82.html titled, Ocho Rios Reinventing Itself.

It cited the World Travel Awards in London in November where several awards were given to Ocho Rios entities. The cruise ship pier was voted Leading Caribbean Port; Dolphin Cove copped the Caribbean's Leading Adventure Tourist Attraction; and Jamaica Inn, the Caribbean's Leading All-Suite Hotel and Jamaica's Leading Hotel. Locally, Mystic Mountain was voted Jamaica's Best Attraction, at The Gleaner Company's Hospitality Jamaica 10th Anniversary Awards.

"And with Dunn's River continuing to receive record number of clients, it means we have the best accommodation and attractions in Jamaica," the article quoted chairperson of the Ocho Rios/Runaway Bay Chapter of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Vana Taylor, as saying.

Another positive for Ocho Rios was that funding from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Port Authority of Jamaica has seen more than $400 million being spent to upgrade the pier and surrounding areas, and that the Tourism Product Development Company is to implement a maintenance and beautification plan for the town.

Taylor is also said to have commended the police "for the tremendous work" they have been doing in controlling crime, harassment and the flow of traffic in Ocho Rios, as well as the work of the anti-harassment team which continues to enhance the experience of visitors as well as citizens.

According to The Gleaner article, of the total cruise passengers who visited Jamaica in 2013, the Port of Falmouth received 615,857 passengers or 50 per cent; Montego Bay, 223,102 or 18 per cent; and Ocho Rios, 400,680 or 32 per cent, a decline of 4.2 per cent compared with the previous year.

It said in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, 363 cruise ships called at Jamaican ports which was nine calls less than 2012-2013, and that of the 2013-2014 figure, 144 vessels or 39 per cent visited Falmouth; 133 or 37 per cent, Ocho Rios; 82 or 22.6 per cent, Montego Bay; and five or 1.4 per cent, the remaining ports.

Issa, according to Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_John_Issa has had a long association with Jamaica’s tourism sector, advocating for fair treatment of small EP hotels, non-discrimination of cruise ship ports in terms of head tax, and beautification of the Ocho Rios pier and its surrounding, among others.

He was Executive Vice-President of his family’s SuperClubs chain of all-inclusive hotels for some 15 years, during which he received several awards, including Young Hotelier of the World 1994 and the Jamaica Observer's Tourism's Brightest Spark in 1999 and a place among Jamaica's top 10 personalities for that year.

Since 2003, Issa has developed a multifaceted group of companies that provide employment for hundreds of people in the Jamaican parish of St. Ann, which harbours the resort town of Ocho Rios, and in the process he has created a powerful 'Cool' brand that is being leveraged in the local and international business community.

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