A plan by the Ministry of Tourism to increase hotel room stock by 15,000 over the next five years has received yet another boost from Sandals Resorts International.
Tourism Minister Hon. Edmund Bartlett and Sandals Chief Executive Officer Adam Stewart recently disclosed that the home-grown hotel chain would be adding 750 rooms in three properties with an investment of US$350 million over the next five years.
Congratulating Mr. Stewart and Sandals on the new initiative, Minister Bartlett sees this as a strong signal to local investors to get on board as the country goes all out to have a total of 40,000 rooms and five million visitors putting US$5 billion in the economy annually by 2021.
Minister Bartlett was giving the main address at the opening of the inaugural Island Routes’ Caribbean Partner Conference at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort recently. The conference has brought together some 50 critical tour and excursions providers responsible for delivering Island Routes excursion experiences.
The 750 new rooms will come from three properties; a top-of-the-line hotel in Kingston, the development of Dragon Bay in Port Antonio and the expansion of an existing property in Negril.
Minister Bartlett, who is particularly excited about the city hotel for Kingston, said Kingston “has to be repositioned as one of the leading city destinations in this part of the Caribbean.”
While noting that “the competition is going to be strong because we already have great activities out of Cuba and Santo Domingo where city tourism is concerned,” the Tourism Minister expressed confidence that “we can define our own space because Kingston has a charm and an allure of its own with a history and a tradition and culture that is iconic.”
He said he is satisfied that, “our music and heritage and the entertainment element that Kingston potentially offers will out rival every other destination in the Caribbean and we have to work it and get it right.”
Mr. Stewart noted that approval has already been received for development of the lifestyle Kingston city hotel which will not carry a Sandals brand but will be operated by them. “That connectivity is going to be there and we’re very deliberate in what we’re trying to do,” said the Sandals CEO, adding, “the essence of what we’re doing is to say that you can come here for business but we’d like you to stay here a few extra days as well, visit the Blue Mountain and get out for an excursion.
Regarding the Port Antonio development, he said it would be getting the personal attention of Sandals Resorts Chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, “he has three architects and he has said this is the crown jewel in the chain.”
Supporting this development is a plan by government to lengthen the runway at Ian Fleming Airport. “This is the missing link today for the opening of the east of the island. We know that the beauty is there but we need the employment, the training and development, the economic stimulus to take place there the way we know it can,” said Mr. Stewart.
Minister Bartlett added, “we are excited about the Port Antonio development and we want to use this also as a means of saying to more local entrepreneurs, let’s add the rooms because the experiences are being laid out.” With Mr. Adam Stewart heading the Tourism Linkages Council, the Minister said “those networks are going to expand experiences in the destination that will bring more people here and provide more opportunities for Jamaicans to reap more benefits from tourism.”