Wed | Aug 23, 2017

DeCameron eyes Breezes

Published:Wednesday | March 11, 2015 | 3:00 AM
Gerard Mitchell
The former Breezes Resort on the Hip Strip, Gloucester Avenue.
A section of the property.
The Hip Strip along Glouchester Avenue in Montego Bay, St James.
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Hospitality Jamaica has been reliably informed that Dominican Republic hotel operator, DeCameron, is eyeing the former SuperClubs Breezes resort, which has been closed for the last five years.

The 124-room resort, which is owned by the National Investment Fund (NIF) and the National

Commercial Bank Pension Fund, forms part of a series of investments DeCameron plans for the ailing Gloucester Avenue Hip Strip.

Sources close to the deal said DeCameron will be forced to pump US$2 million into refurbishing the property which is being sold for approximately US$6.5 million by the NIF. The money to complete the refurbishing is expected to be taken from the asking price.

DeCameron has plans to construct an additional 150 rooms to its existing 266-room Montego Bay property on lands located at the popular Cornwall Beach (old Jamaica Tourist Board lands), which it has already taken over. The acquisition of Breezes would see it owning more than 600 rooms on the Hip Strip.

The news comes at a time when the St James Parish Development Committee (PDC) sounded a call to action for life to be returned to the strip, which was once the lifeblood of several businesses.

Although the PDC called for more European Plan hotels, this will not be the case for Breezes, which operated as an all-inclusive resort for 14 years. All the DeCameron properties in Jamaica are run as all-inclusive.

plan of action

At one of its quarterly meetings in 2014, PDC chairman Gerard Mitchell called on Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill to use his offices to initiate discussion with all the stakeholders on Gloucester Avenue with a view of putting in place a short-, medium- and long-term plan of action to restore this important centrepiece of the tourism product.

"The PDC notes with concern the number of closed properties on Gloucester Avenue and the dilapidated structures that mock this once proud Mecca of Montego Bay tourism," said Mitchell in his appeal, noting that his board, in its drive to generate more jobs and economic growth in the parish, was urging the minister to do what is necessary to have these properties open for business.

"Of immediate concern is the closed Breezes Resort, of which Government has majority shares through the NIF," said the PDC.

The other hotels the St James PDC stated remained closed were the Fantasy Resort, 119 rooms; Vista Ambassador, 100 rooms; Casa Blanca, 49 rooms; Coral Cliff, 22 rooms; and the Montego Bay Beach Resort, which is located at the airport roundabout, 57 rooms.

According to the PDC chairman, the time has passed for talk, and that action is needed now to bring back more than 400 rooms along this corridor. He highlighted the benefits of having the hotels reopened.

"Five hundred to 1,500 jobs would be generated both directly and indirectly; revenue to the city; the Government would also benefit from the reopening with the application of a variety of taxes such as GCT and room tax; an estimated 800 additional guests would find rooms on the Hip Strip and patronise the local restaurants, clubs, bars and beaches, as well as the Harbour Street and Old Fort craft markets. More visitors waters down the harassment opportunities ... less visitors increases harassment," he said.

He also pointed out that this would also increase general safety of the area and the real estate value for all properties along and behind the Hip Strip.

Checks made by Hospitality Jamaica revealed that plans are far ahead to revitalise Fantasy Resort as well, with hotelier Tricia-Ann Bicarie at the helm of the proposed renewal.

Bicarie's father, Dennis Morgan, owns the Fantasy, and with the job she has done with bringing his Sea Gardens resort back into the spotlight, he has handed her the Fantasy project.

Another resort on the strip is back on the market - the recently refurbished Gloucestershire Hotel is also being sold at an asking price of US$6.25 million, executors for the late hotelier John Sinclair told Hospitality Jamaica.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com