Portsmouth Ready for the "Next Level"
Blessed with a natural harbour, Indian River, scenic beaches, and national park, the town of Portsmouth is well positioned to take the lead in accelerating the development of Dominica's tourism product.
Indeed, coupled with these spectacular natural tourist attractions, the town now finds itself in an even more fortunate if not enviable position.
That is our unwavering loyalty to the Labour Party has finally paid off.
It might have taken an unprecedented 50 years of sacrifice and uninterrupted grassroots support, but for the first time in our history, we can boast a Tourism Minister representing our interest at the highest level in Ian Douglas.
More importantly, this development is occurring at a time when the government is making a concerted effort to diversify our economy into tourism.
Why not start with the town best suited for tourism development? Why not uplift the economic prospects of the town of people who have proven to be your most loyal supporters in the party's history? It seems like we've reached a crossroad, if not now, then when?
With tourism arrivals in Dominica struggling to regain its 2006 peak of 84,041 stay-over visitors, national income generated from agriculture on the decline, and China offering $3bn in soft loans to their Caribbean friends, there may never be a more opportune time for a significant development of Portsmouth's tourism infrastructure.
At a time when the cruise sector arrivals have plummeted from 550,000 visitors in 2009/2010 to 297,000 in 2011/2012, further declines are projected to 227,000 in 2012/2013.
Its far cry from the targeted 1,000,000 arrivals projected in the 2006 Tourism Master plan for 2015.
Indeed increased government spending in Portsmouth's tourism sector could be the catalyst for the Tourism Ministry to achieve these lofty goals in addition to the targeted of 90,000 stay-over visitors ahead of schedule.
Filled with enterprising people, a number of small hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, a bourgeoning live music scene, and the presence of hundreds of Ross university students at Picard, Portsmouth is ready for the next level in tourism.
Thanks to the efforts of the Skerrit administration, the process of redeveloping Portsmouth tourism infrastructure would appear to be well under way, in advance of the provision of soft loans from China earmarked specifically for infrastructure and development projects.
For starters, the unsightly abandoned ships have finally been removed from the harbour.
This might seem like one small step in the right direction, but it was a necessary prerequisite to the already planned and approved harbour multi-million dollar harbour front redevelopment project.
In fact plans for a new look Portsmouth were unveiled as far back as April 5 2000 under then Prime Minister and Parliamentary Representative for Portsmouth, the late Rosie Douglas.
Then tourism minister Charles Savarin, NDC'S general manager Sheridan Gregoire and other state and quasi-state officials met with stake holders back then on a series of talks on these proposals.
The plans included the development of a marina, docking facility and sporting complex – which would not only generate significant cash flow for locals, but establish Portsmouth as a regional sporting centre equipped with indoor basketball courts, netball courts, tennis courts, swimming pool and a modern track and field facility.
Indeed Mr Saverin himself had commented that he had always envisioned a bay front project for Portsmouth adding that it would set the pace for development in the community.
"We can take the North River and bring it up to the Indian River, create a Bay Front Boulevard Fisheries Project which will generally give a new facelift to the front of Portsmouth and then begin to set the pace for the development of this community" he said.
Additionally, with the Moroccan funded 58 room Cabrits hotel in the construction phase, the stage is now set for further meaningful capital development spending to allow the people of Portsmouth to benefit from a significantly enhanced tourism product.
As Dominica's longest standing Labour Party supporters, we've been in the political trenches on behalf of Labour long before many members of the current administration were even born.
We were Labourites when the word "Labour" was considered a bad word in many circles in Dominica during the 80's and 90's.
Our passion for labour was as strong when Mike Douglas was the sole parliamentary representative in a house of assembly dominated by the Freedom Party of Eugenia Charles in the early 90's, as it is now.
But, as an intelligent people, currently feeling the pinch from the economic realities on the ground, we refuse to be taken for granted.
We make no apologies when we say we will vote with our pocketbook in the next election, and we are not interested in government handouts.
As we diversify our economy into tourism at a time where the Chinese have made significant development capital available for infrastructure, we the people of Portsmouth are looking forward resuming discussions with the Skirrit administration for the implementation of conceptual development plans already approved which include the road rehabilitation in Chance, the Bay Front redevelopment, the marina and Sporting Facility Development, as we seek to full embrace our labour mantra of taking the north to "the next level!"