Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Morgan's Harbour getting a makeover - New name, new management

Published:Friday | September 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Callisha Bryan, marketing manager for Grand Port Royal Marina and Spa.
A bit of history is captured with this display.

Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter

Morgan's Harbour Hotel has been renamed Grand Port Royal Marina and Spa, and the new operators are spending about $60 million to refurbish and reposition the 60-room property to reclaim market share.

The hotel has been leased by Lashmont Financial Services, a locally registered firm with roots in the United Kingdom, Marketing Manager Callisha Bryan told the Financial Gleaner. Lashmont was incorporated in April 2013, with British contractor and builder Myles McClymont as sole shareholder and director, according to Companies Office records.

The terms of the lease were not disclosed, but Bryan said the owners have an option to buy from current owner Neville Blythe, who himself acquired the property a decade ago.

Lashmont took possession of the property in October 2013, idled it for repairs, and reopened for business four months later even as Grand Port Royal was still being upgraded.

The Financial Gleaner was greeted by the smell of fresh paint and the sounds of hammering on a visit to the hotel last week, as workmen logged old equipment and furniture across the newly paved courtyard. Workmen milled about taking measurements under the watchful gaze of the foreman.

"We have completed work on the first set of 28 rooms," Bryan said, adding that each has been outfitted with smart televisions and wireless Internet.

"Everything is now painted white to blend with the new look and feel of the property," she said, pointing to the outer walls of the bedrooms and administrative block.

Lashmont reopened Grand Port Royal "officially" in February and has maintained a 40 per cent occupancy since, the marketing manager said.

"When they took over, it was not viable to continue as is because the place was really down, so guests were redirected to other properties," she said.

Grand Port Royal remains a favoured stop for Jamaican and foreign security personnel, according to Bryan.

Located on the strip leading to Port Royal, the hotel has long been one of Kingston's entertainment spots. Lashmont aims to build on that business - or as Bryan puts it, "put our name back out there" - with additional recreational activities, but the new operator also aims to position it as a preferred spot for lunch and dinner crowds, events and meetings.

The hotel's 60 rooms span three floors, with each floor "to reflect a different experience evidenced in the decor and furniture" under the upgrading programme.

Lashmont is financing the full cost of the renovation project, "and more than likely the amount is going to be used as the bargaining chip for when it's time for the purchase," Bryan said, while noting the project would end up costing around $60 million.

"Anything that has been added in value will go towards the agreement when they decide to buy. So at the end of the day, it is to their advantage."

Under the terms of the lease, Lashmont has taken control of the assets and liabilities, "but some liabilities will still fall under the jurisdiction of the owner," the marketing manager said, without clarifying.

At takeover, the property was valued at $600 million to $900 million, she adds.

Neville Blythe bought Morgan's Harbour Hotel in 2004.

The hotel once had pride of place among the top entertainment spots locally but then faded as rival night spots cropped up in and around Kingston and the peripatetic club clientele continued their search for the next new thing.

Bryan said Lashmont is now adding an upper deck to the property's Red Jack restaurant to double the size of the existing structure, which will be the focal point for business from conferences and weddings.

Weddings have been a traditional revenue stream "even in the low periods of the hotel" and Bryan is hoping the new space will position the property as a premier spot for nuptials.

Grand Port Royal will also add a juice bar retrofitted from a gazebo in the courtyard, to be supplied from the in-house organic herb garden that has also been added.

A section of the same gazebo will be transformed into a jerk pit.

"We are looking at a little more elevated cocktail events," Bryan said of the clientele to be tapped.

The old gaming lounge on the property will eventually be transformed into a spa.

"We also want to add a tennis and volleyball court and also a Jacuzzi," she said.

"It's not just the access to rooms, but I think if we play on the activities and the theme, we can bring back the brand. There will always be someone needing a room, but to put our name back out there, we have to put the activities behind our name," she said.

"It's Kingston, so you want to pull persons on a Sunday, (and) pull persons for retreats, so we are really looking for the more activity-centred events."

The property is now staffed by 24, including nine new recruits. Bryan is a holdover the former management.

"After the redundancy, we did not take back everyone, but the majority of who we needed were kept. The maintenance and kitchen staff is still the same," she said.

The target market for the repositioned hotel more or less remains the same, Bryan said, but with more focus on tapping back into the entertainment scene.

Additionally, Port Royal's history as a pirate haven remains "a beacon for history buffs", who in turn have been a source of bookings of tourists from places like Germany, Europe and Australia.

"A lot of our actual clientele are groups who are touring. A part of our experience here is to offer tours of the historic Port Royal and its piracy appeal," the marketing manager said.

The property is also a favoured spot for Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and the Jamaica Defence Force, she said, noting the security appeal to this niche.