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Great Huts B&B using Kingston art to pull travellers

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 6:00 AM
The 'African Sunrise' hut at Great Huts, Boston, Portland.
Dr Paul Shalom Rhodes, operator of Great Huts, at Boston Bay, Portland.
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Great Huts Resort, a secluded eco-friendly bed and breakfast outfit in Boston Bay, Portland, is again tapping into local culture to attract guests who want more than sun, sea and sand.

Owner Dr Paul Rhodes, a retired Washington internist, has added a tour of Kingston's art districts to Great Huts' own regular cultural showcase.

The programme begins with three nights in Kingston that kicks off with an opening session at Grosvenor Gallery. Days two and three include visits to the National Gallery and the studios of Mazola Wa Mwashighadi, Nakazzi Hutchinson and Gene Pearson, among other artistic locations.

Rhodes, who admitted that in seven years his total investment of US$1 million has not returned a profit, said Friday that he is continually going back to the drawing board to market the 17-hut property, which he describes as 'B&B plus'.

He has previously offered an experience described as Jamaica Shalom, a Caribbean-Jewish vacation inclusive of synagogue visits in Kingston, lessons on the 350-year history and meeting Jamaican Jewish families. Rhodes himself is of Jewish heritage.

In addition to tweaking the resort's cultural offerings, he is considering the addition of three upscale huts which will attract a charge of US$150 to US$250 per night, compared to the basic cabin which averages US$70 per night. The B&B is now running a summer special with 50 per cent discount on rates.

Accommodation at Great Huts includes what Rhodes describes as nine upscale huts, with private quarters, hand crafted furnishings and art work. The remainder are "secluded garden" huts and cliff side treehouses with a sea view.

In addition to its art odyssey, Great Huts has introduced an Ethiopian festival and weekend cultural showcase including Kumina presentations. Lectures are also offered on site. The Ethiopian festival, for the last two years has featured the culture of Rastafari.

Guests, Rhodes said, will enjoy fun in the sun but also "gain perspective on the world".

Four nights of the art tour will be spent at Great Huts Resort. One day will be allocated for a trip to west to explore the studios of David Pinto, the town of Falmouth as well as Harmony Hall, Rhodes said, "if enough guests sign up for the tour".

The Huts see 90 to 100 per cent occupancy during the winter season with most guests coming from Europe and North America, but in the off season the property relies on weekend trade and walk-ins. The winter take, Rhodes said, is used to pay bills and upgrade the property. Great Huts employs 25 full-time staff.

The cost of the new art tour is US$1,000 per couple, which includes seven nights' accommodation at the nature resort. Otherwise, he said, those who come to enjoy the basic huts will have access to "beautiful grounds and a well-kept beach".

Discounts on the cultural packages and huts are available to locals, he said, noting that visitors from Kingston often enjoy the property on weekends.

The resort also advertises on its website a "Great Waterfalls" package, the first of a series of Jamaican adventure tours, which will take visitors to the "stunning waterfalls of Jamaica". The package starts with a visit to Reach Falls followed by a trip to Somerset Falls and Dunn's River Falls.

Rhodes first came to Jamaica in 1974 on a two-month elective in the parish of Hanover, through the University of the West Indies, and returned frequently until he finally settled in Portland.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com