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$1b makeover for Appleton Rum Tour

Published:Sunday | November 13, 2016 | 11:16 AMNeville Graham
Clement ‘Jimmy’ Lawrence, chairman of J. Wray & Nephew Limited.
Appleton Estate in St Elizabeth
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Rum company J. Wray and Nephew Limited (JWN) is plunking down nearly $1 billion on a total makeover of its world-famous Appleton Rum Tour. A small hotel is also under consideration, but that is several years away. JWN chairman Clement ‘Jimmy’ Lawrence says when the company breaks ground next Friday it will mean the temporary closure of the estate tour which will be developed into a brand new product. The rum tour is part of the operations of JWN’s sugar and rum producing subsidiary Appleton Estate.

“The renovation is so extensive that it would not be practical to have the tour operating with the restrictions that would be required for the construction and so we’ve taken the difficult decision to do that but in terms of safety and the quality of a tour we’ve agreed that it should be the proper course of action,” Lawrence said in an interview with Gleaner Business.

He says the renovations will cover all aspects of the tour and may include branding of transportation to the venue and the surrounding community in St Elizabeth.

“We’re spending US$7.2 million, plus there are other items of expenditure that we will not go into at this time. All told that should translate to $1 billion and we think that will be a solid investment in the company, the community and Jamaica at this time,” he said.

The Appleton Rum Tour takes visitors along a scenic, winding route in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country. The location is about 50 kilometres from the nearest tourist centres. Lawrence admits that despite the beauty of the drive, the mode of transportation by bus and the length of time it takes to get to Appleton would have taken its toll on visitors.

RAIL REVITALISATION

With that in mind the company is looking to the revitalisation of the rail service to accommodate the rum tour so that they can triple the number of visitors.

“That is an integral part of the plans that we have. We’re looking to grow the number of visitors from 50,000 to 150,000 and the rail experience and the logistical benefits that it offers would fit nicely with our plans,” Lawrence said.

For the medium term he says the company will be looking at establishing a small-scale hotel as part of the offerings at Appleton. This is in addition to the improvements in surrounding communities to include shops and craft markets for artisans.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com