Fri | Feb 28, 2020

New Rooms for Portland … The Geejam Strategy

Published:Wednesday | January 8, 2020 | 12:19 AMJanet Silvera - Hospitality Jamaica Coordinator
The fabulous Panorama, one of the Geejam collection of villas
The fabulous Panorama, one of the Geejam collection of villas

For years, the resort town of Port Antonio has had the lowest share of visitors of all of Jamaica’s six resort areas.

In fact, according to Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) statistics, between 2014 and 2016, Port Antonio averaged only 21,000 tourists per year, or just one per cent of the more than two million stopover visitors to the island. This was in stark contrast to Montego Bay, for example, which averaged 700,000 visitors, or 33 per cent of all visitors.

However, all of that is beginning to change in 2020 and beyond. According to CEO of Geejam Jon Baker, his company has come up with a strategy, akin to Timeshare, in which investors are able to pool capital for the construction of high, end villas and apartments in the resort town.

Baker says the initiative grew out of expressions of interest in purchasing vacation homes, made by guests to his property, who have been enthralled by Port Antonio’s beauty and wowed by the experience they have had there with the residents.

“It’s quite shocking the list of people we have that say, ‘Oh, if ever a piece of land becomes available, or if there is a project that you’re doing, we would like to get involved’. So it goes beyond the returning of people for vacations, and that is in the 10 per cent of people who are interested in investing in Jamaica … What we have been trying to do is make it easier for them to have a piece of paradise,” Baker said.

The real estate shareholding ­initiative has already begun with the Panorama Villa, which is situated at the Geejam property. In this model, Baker says, the property is valued, then shares are issued, which are then bought by ­interested investors. The ­shareholders are guaranteed a certain amount of time where they can vacation at the property, and they “also get to enjoy income from the rental of the property when they are not there”.

“A part of the package is that we manage the property for the owners. We generally keep a stake in the property as well, so everyone feels comfortable. But we always say, once you purchase property or you purchase a shareholding, you will not need to send maintenance money or money down every month. We will cover that through rentals, and then at the end of the year, it is all totalled up and recouped,” Baker said.

“We did that with Panorama and have four partners in that. Four groups of people from overseas now have a piece of Port Antonio because these are high-end resorts – US$2 million-plus. So it’s a bit of a bite to use that as a holiday home. But we are looking forward to finding some more accessible smaller villas, or maybe a small development of villas, but in the Geejam way, where people can get involved, maybe US$250,000 or US$300,000,” he added.

Marketing Campaign for Portland

Baker told Hospitality Jamaica that a concomitant marketing campaign for Port Antonio, under the auspices of Geejam, would be rolled out shortly to complement all the ensuing developments in the area.

“We are putting in a very big marketing effort as well. Once we pull the trigger on our official reopening (Geejam has closed for six months for refurbishing and expansion), which is looking like probably March 2020, the PR ­(public relations) and the marketing campaign that we alone are putting together for Port Antonio, the tide is going to rise for ­everybody, not just Geejam. We are not solely about Geejam. It’s always about Port Antonio. That’s my vocation,” he said.

With the surge in accommodation, he is hoping that the Kingstonians who would trek to Portland for staycations, or for parties in the past, would start to return in their numbers.

“One of the main reasons that Frenchman’s (party) left Port Antonio was lack of ­accommodation. Three hundred people would come down to the famous Frenchman’s party, and there weren’t enough rooms to house everybody, so people would be driving drunk at nights, and it wasn’t a good look,” he said.