Jamaica News: The world renowned Dunn’s River Falls and theme park in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, has been recording an uptick in patronage since being reopened to the public on July 21, following a four-month closure due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The popular 28-acre facility got the go-ahead from the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) on July 17 to resume daily operations, after the management was deemed to have satisfactorily instituted the requisite COVID-19 protocols and safeguards.
Park Manager, Michelle Sawyers, says the growing level of patronage seen since the reopening is indicative of the facility’s status and the high regard in which it is held as the Caribbean’s premier resort attraction.
“Even while we were closed back in March, we had to have some of our workers here on location to keep the park in a state of readiness, knowing that at some point we would be called on to reopen. It was a lot of work… and for that I must commend the team here at Dunn’s River; it was a total team effort,” she tells JIS News.
Ms. Sawyers informs that in keeping with Ministry of Health and Wellness-mandated safety guidelines, patrons must wear masks and do a temperature check on entering the property.
She says while guests are not required to wear masks when climbing the falls, they are encouraged to carry one in a pouch which they must put on after completing the trek.
The Park Manager advised that masks and pouches are available at the property, which has also been outfitted with handwashing and sanitization stations strategically positioned for guests and staff.
Ms. Sawyers praises parent company – the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) – and its subsidiary – the St. Ann Development Company (SADCo), for their support in ensuring that all of the health and safety requirements have been instituted at Dunn’s River Falls.
She anticipates a gradual increase in the facility’s patronage over time, noting its unique distinction of being a haven for both local and overseas visitors.
“This is even more the reason why we have to follow protocols and ensure that we keep our staff and visitors safe,” Ms. Sawyers adds.
Meanwhile, Senior Strategist and Adviser in the Ministry of Tourism, Delano Seiveright, says the Ministry is proud of the seamless resumption of Dunn’s River Falls’ operations.
He notes that this sends a “powerful signal” to the market that Jamaica is open for business.
“This is why we have been paying so much attention to the health and safety protocols, having TPDCo doing round-the-clock inspections… to ensure that persons and entities are being [compliant],” Mr. Seiveright further points out.
While acknowledging that the industry is still “some ways off” from returning to full normality, he emphasizes the importance getting activities to this end underway, “and [positioning] ourselves with the mindset that there are indeed greater things to come”.
“The Ministry of Tourism is fully confident that if we get the health and safety guidelines right, where we are known as a safe destination, then everything else will fall in place,” Mr. Seiveright adds.
In the meantime, local industry stakeholders are also upbeat about the reopening of Dunn’s River Falls.
Several of them note that this is one of the most telling signs that “[Jamaica’s] tourism is on its way back”.
Restaurant operator at the popular Ocho Rios Fishing Village, Marcus King, says the attraction’s closure had a significant negative ripple effect on business.
“What usually happens is that we get a lot of spinoff [patronage] from there… where persons would visit the restaurants for lunch after climbing the falls. Here, at the fishing village, that was a big part of our operations. [So] local [business operators] are very happy with the reopening,” he tells JIS News.
Each year, Dunn’s River Falls welcomes thousands of local and overseas visitors.
At about 180 feet (55 metres) high and 600 feet (180 m) long, the waterfalls are terraced like giant natural stairs, although some aspects incorporate man-made reconfigurations.
Several small lagoons are interspersed among the vertical sections of the falls, which flows into the Caribbean Sea at the western end of a white-sand beach.
Source: JIS News