JUTA Lucea still going strong after seven years
Claudia Gardner, Hospitality Jamaica Writer:
President of the Lucea Chapter of the Jamaica Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) Lucea, Dwight Parkinson, says seven years after its formation, the organisation is still going strong.
"Since the inception of JUTA Lucea at the start of the world economic crisis, we got registered and obtained a joint contract with JUTA Negril at the Grand Palladium. So far, we are still holding on to that contract and things are going smoothly," Parkinson told Hospitality Jamaica in a recent interview.
"The relationship with the Grand Palladium includes transportation service from the hotel, transportation of VIPs and other requests. We have a relationship with tour representatives on property and we fulfil their requests as well. Our chapter started out with 57 members and we now have 172 members," he added.
Parkinson said that of this figure, 95 are operational members, meaning those who are equipped with vehicles and are carrying out duties relating to ground transportation. He said the others are registered members who are not on the island at the moment, but still maintain their membership.
"We have relationships with JUTA Negril and JUTA Montego Bay in relation to airport-to-hotel transfer, and transportation from the cruise ship piers. Otherwise, there are members who just do their own freelancing," Parkinson explained.
He admitted there were challenges over the years, with, for example, loan procurement, however, "we have never lost a vehicle to a bank. Even though they might be struggling, everybody is keeping their heads above the water", he said.
Parkinson said among the future plans of the organisation are the acquisition of a new coaster bus, and the development of its own website.
JUTA Lucea was established following a six-year Supreme Court battle with the directorship of JUTA.
Officially established in November 2006, JUTA Lucea was the seventh chapter to be formed on the island.
The first meeting of the chapter was held in December 2000 and was convened by the late Alfred Tomlinson, who was also instrumental in forming the Negril Chapter in 1974.
In 2000, Tomlinson had made a proposal to the JUTA all-island president at the time, stating that there was a group of more than 50 operators within the Lucea area who wanted to establish their own chapter. Tomlinson had outlined that the JUTA constitution states that a group of 50 or more operators in a clearly defined geographical area or region, can apply to the board of directors for chapter status.
The group was nonetheless denied a chapter, and subsequently wrote to then prime minister, P.J. Patterson, who instructed them to meet with Dr Wykeham McNeill - who was then the junior tourism minister - and the late Benjamin Clare, who was then the Member of Parliament for Western Hanover.
The matter was taken to the Supreme Court and Lucea was allowed to have its own chapter in November of 2006.