Strong Arrivals Growth Prompts Hotel Development In Caribbean Destinations
PHOTO: Stephanie Villedrouin, Haiti’s minister of tourism. (Photo by Brian Major)
Strong visitor growth in several Caribbean destinations is generating new resort development across the region. Several new properties have launched in the past few weeks, even as entrepreneurs announce new projects that will add additional rooms to the market.
Land-based traveler growth is occurring across the region, impacting Caribbean destinations of all types. Already one of the most popular destinations in the region, Jamaica is rapidly building a new generation of resorts to accommodate the seemingly limitless potential for expanded tourism across the island.
Meanwhile, U.S. Virgin Islands tourism stakeholders are seeking to extend recent positive gains in visitor arrivals. Finally, Haitian tourism officials working to ignite a tourism rebound after years spent off Americans’ travel itineraries. Tourism officials and hoteliers in each country recently announced new projects.
Jamaica’s visitor arrivals are continuing their steady increase of the past several years. The country hosted 1.6 million visitors between January and September of 2015, a 5.5 percent increase over 2013. Jamaica recorded the third-most visitor arrivals among Caribbean destinations in 2014, with 2,080,181 travelers according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). The record total was the country’s second straight year hosting more than two million visitor arrivals.
The 129-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel opened Dec. 1 in the New Kingston district of Jamaica’s capital city. The $25 million property is Jamaica’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified (LEED) building, with furnishings and décor sourced locally from small and medium-sized companies.
The hotel will satisfy market demand for more hotel rooms in Kingston, said Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s tourism minister. Long Jamaica’s business center, the city is also growing as destination for leisure visitors.
“Over the last two years, in particular, this demand has grown and people have been crying out for more rooms,” said McNeill. Jamaica will gain another $200 million worth of new hotel and resorts by the end of 2015, he added.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Travel to the U.S. Virgin Island is also trending higher; the 373,495 overnight arrivals hosted between January and May of 2015 were a 7.4 percent increase over 2013. Last year the territory hosted 730,367 land-based visitors, a 3.9 percent increase over 2013.
The big hotel development in the U.S. Virgin Islands is not related to a new project, but a sale: Real estate investment trust Ashford Hospitality Prime Inc. acquired the 180-room Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas for $64 million from Marriott International Inc.
The resort, located on 30 oceanfront acres along St. Thomas’ Great Bay, opened in 1996 and recently completed a $22 million renovation of its guest rooms and public space. These enhancements include new and upgraded food and beverage offerings, expanded wedding venue capacity, and the construction of a desalination plant and new electricity generators which enable the hotel to operate self-sufficiently.
The resort is also poised to grow, said Monty Bennett, Ashford Prime's chairman. “We have the ability to expand the resort further through additional keys and villas.”
Haiti’s booming visitor arrivals in recent years point to the success of the Ministry of Tourism, in partnership with international entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations, have generated as they seek to rebuild the country’s once-thriving tourism industry.
Haiti’s 166,029 overnight arrivals between January and April of this year represent a 9.8 percent increase over the same period last year. Haiti hosted 465,174 overnight visitors in 2014, a 10 percent increase over 2013.
Among the companies responding to the growing numbers with new resort projects is Decameron Hotels Group, which will launch the Hotel Indigo Royal Decameron Beach Resort an all-inclusive, 400-room property in Haiti’s Cote des Arcadins district, in mid-December.
The new hotel is located at the site of Club Indigo, a once-popular local property. Even earlier the site was home to Club Med Haiti, during its time among the Caribbean’s most popular all-inclusive properties.
The new resort will feature three restaurants, two outdoor pools, two health and fitness centers, a spa and a marina. The project enjoys the “full support of the Haitian state,” said Stephanie Villedrouin, Haiti’s minister of tourism.
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