Infuse new life in mineral baths
THE EDITOR, Madam:
As a child, our family went out on Sundays. Day trips to beaches, mineral springs such as Rockfort Mineral Bath and Milk River Bath were very normal.
I’ve read commentaries by Carolyn Cooper on beach access for Jamaicans, and also on mineral baths. Recently, I watched Lisa Hanna in Parliament debate the issue of wellness tourism and its potential. She has also written about these topics, stressing the need to ensure that Jamaicans maintain ownership of these gems. While we must change the strategy in tourism and start looking at other ways to earn, I think mineral baths are not prioritised, simply because not much is known about them and their potential for tourism in the global context.
A few years ago I visited Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and took a trip to the Dead Sea, which has the highest salt and mineral content in the world. The mud is also ultra-rich in minerals and people travel all over the world just to soak in it, which helps to heal and revitalise the skin, and detoxify the body. Close to a million tourists visit the Dead Sea annually, and there are a variety of shops, cafés, etc, catering to tourists. Dead Sea minerals are also used in many high-end cosmetics. Indeed, some of the top attractions in countries like Iceland are mineral springs!
In Jamaica, tourists visit the island for sun and sand, food, music and culture. I believe there is tremendous opportunity to expand into wellness. I support the calls to enhance properties like the Milk River and Rockfort Mineral baths. They can be marketed to attract more visitors. The springs in Jamaica are known for their minerals and high radioactive and healing properties; some have historical significance. We have springs that have been operating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Bath Fountain Hotel & Spa in St Thomas and Milk River Hotel & Mineral Spa in Clarendon are about to be divested. I don’t believe any new operator can survive without the full backing of the tourism ministry and global marketing. The properties also need a facelift, to improve attractiveness.
Any due diligence for divestment must include a study on the potential of these sites for tourism. Is it better to operate privately? Perhaps all baths should be operated by Jamaica National Heritage Trust and declared heritage sites. We must keep an open mind and broaden our outlook and vision; we must move away from the strategy of divesting everything to the highest foreign bidder, which is not benefiting us as a country.