Port Authority adds more craft traders at Ocho Rios pier

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OCHO RIOS, St Ann — The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) said it has given permission for an additional 16 craft traders to do business at the Ocho Rios cruise ship pier and the promenade leading to the facility.

It made the change after several craft traders complained publicly that they had not been earning since the reopening of the cruise ship industry in August. They claimed that visitors were being bussed to upscale properties and not to the craft markets.

The PAJ told the Jamaica Observer that the pier has 30 craft trader stalls, which the vendors usually occupy on a rotational basis to directly access visitors as they disembark and board the ships.

For the first two cruise ship calls since the industry reopened, only 21 of the 30 stalls at the pier were used, according to Kimberly Stiff, assistant director of marketing and communications at PAJ.

“After concerns were raised by the craft traders about tour buses not visiting their markets, the PAJ decided to include an additional six stalls to facilitate more craft traders on the port,” Stiff told the Observer. “During that period, the PAJ continued to examine additional ways of providing more craft traders exposure to the cruise passengers.

“It was subsequently decided over the weekend of September 18, 2021, that the PAJ would extend the port’s craft village onto the promenade of Turtle River with an additional 10 stalls as of the 21st September, 2021,” Stiff added.

She stated that the PAJ’s gesture was “well received by the craft traders”, adding that more ways are being explored to “provide small businesses and entrepreneurs opportunities to access the Jamaican tourism product”.

Craft traders who spoke with the Observer expressed gratitude for the additional provision made by the PAJ. However, they vow to continue pushing for tourists to be brought to the craft markets, instead of craft traders having to wait for an opportunity to sell their goods at the pier.

“Things aren’t [as good] as usual, but we are grateful and we are just praying that things will get better… It is good to be by the pier, but we would like more buses [with cruise ship passengers] to come to the market,” president of Old Market Craft Shops Novlett Llewellyn said.

She said that she is not oblivious to the need to have protocols in place regarding tourism in light of the novel coronavirus. “I told my traders that if you are not swabbed or vaccinated, you can’t enter the market,” Llewellyn declared.

In the meantime, marketing manager at Ocho Rios Craft Market, Dennis Gordon, who was seen last week selling craft items on the promenade, said his wish is to see the tourism dollar spread more equitably among stakeholders in the industry.

“The business is all taken away from us,” he claimed. “We still nah get the tourists in the craft markets. When they do send tours, it is four or five tourists come to the craft market. It is getting worse and worse. We want to see the business come to the Pineapple Craft Market, Ocho Rios Craft Market, and the Old Craft Market.”

The other two craft markets in Ocho Rios are the Dunn’s River Craft Market and Coconut Grove Craft Market.