Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Sandals to add overwater villas at Whitehouse

Published:Wednesday | May 31, 2017 | 5:00 AM
A view of Sandals private island overwater suites in Montego Bay. Sandals Resorts plans to develop another 12 overwater villas at Sandals Whitehouse in Westmoreland.

Sandals Resorts International plans to develop a dozen overwater luxury villas at its south coast resort at Whitehouse, Westmoreland.

In response, fisherfolk in the Whitehouse community want continued access to the area, and better linkages with the hotel to sell fish, according to a new technical report posted on the website of the National Environment and Planning Agency, NEPA, this week.

The hotel is expected to employ an additional 60 persons on completion of the project.

The plan involves 12 luxury overwater villas built along a heart-shaped boardwalk.

The villas would sit seven feet above sea level with structures strong enough to withstand a category-three hurricane, according to the technical report prepared by Dexter Cummings, the environmental, health and safety manager at Sandals Royal Caribbean, in collaboration with Technological Environmental Management Network Limited. The cost of the project was not disclosed.

Sandals Whitehouse will be the second Jamaica-based hotel in the chain to develop overwater villas. The first set of 17 was built last year at the Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay.

The technical report on the current project sought to address specific concerns raised by

NEPA and the community of eastern Westmoreland, including an assurance that the main contractor is expected to source labour from the surrounding communities.

However, it also raised challenges in providing the sort of linkages that the Whitehouse fisherman's co-operative would want.

"The president [Havelon Honeyghan] asked about Sandals buying fish from the local fisherfolk. We explained that the main challenge with arranging such purchases was that any hotel the magnitude of Sandals has to enter into a contract with a supplier to provide an established quantity and quality of product at an agreed price. I shared my experience in the industry across Barbados, St Lucia and Jamaica, in that fisherfolk were generally unwilling or unable to make such commitment. Instead, fisherfolk generally sell their catch to the highest bidder, especially during period of scarcity," the report writer said.

Sandals Resorts International operates 24 properties in seven countries in the Caribbean, including Antigua, The Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia and Turks & Caicos Islands.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com