Jamaica Observer: KINGSTON – INVESTORS are set to spend close to US$2 billion to add new rooms to Jamaica’s tourism product over the next two years, the Ministry of Tourism (MOT) disclosed on July 2. The investment in the number of rooms is expected to come from current and new players in Jamaica’s tourism industry.

Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s minister of tourism, outlined that the investment will result in the addition of 7,000 new rooms and in excess of 20,000 direct and new part-time and full-time jobs.

During the current 2020/21 fiscal year, 521 new rooms are expected to be added to the current stock of hotel rooms in Jamaica — which stands at just over 25,000. Blue Skies Resort in Negril is slated to add 21 new rooms and Ocean Coral Springs in Mountain Springs Bay, Trelawny, will add 500.

An MOT spokesperson said, “Jamaica remains a sought-after destination, and that includes hotel investments. Established brands see the value in adding new rooms and as such continue to expand with new rooms and offerings.”

The MOT spokesperson notes that bookings are increasing apace for the recovering sector, with each property employing its own strategies to attract clientele. “Given that we are in a heavy digital age, these platforms will more than likely be utilised more,” it was pointed out.

The MOT said the investment pipeline comprising new rooms to be delivered between 2021 and 2023 includes Oceans by H10 in Trelawny which will add 444 rooms to its property; Oyster Bay Beach Hotel, also in Trelawny, which will add an additional 12 luxury rooms; ROK Hotel, Kingston, is to expand by 168 rooms; and Wyndham, Kingston, with 300 rooms.

Princess Hotels, Hanover, will deliver 2,000 rooms on completion, including phase 1 with 1000 rooms. Others are Hotel Grand-A-View in Montego Bay with 60 rooms; the Terra Nova Mixed-Use Development, in Kingston, with 30 new rooms; and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in St James with 1700 rooms. Sandals Dunn’s River and Sandals Royal Dunn’s River; Secrets in St Ann and Secrets in St James are also contemplating expansion. The local hotel sector, as elsewhere, is on a recovery path from the ravages of the novel coronavirus pandemic which resulted in properties being shuttered for months in 2020.

Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA) President Clifton Reader reported occupancy levels reached 38 per cent in the first quarter of 2021. He expects a return to 2019 numbers by 2022, noting surveys which reported the desire of many to travel in the coming months, including returning Jamaicans. Hotels in the Caribbean registered an occupancy rate of 63.7 percent on average in 2019.

A Travel Leaders Group survey done in late 2020, conducted in conjunction with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, showed that 45 per cent of respondents had already made plans or are starting to make final plans for their next holiday. At the same time, 54 per cent of the respondents say they are dreaming about when they can travel again.

In the survey, 70 percent of respondents said they will travel in 2021, with just 18 per cent saying they will resume traveling in 2022.