Small hotels upbeat about 2015; laud 2014 a year of success
Karrie Williams, Gleaner Writer
Some small hoteliers in western Jamaica have declared 2014 a year of major growth and renewal for their sector, and are expressing further confidence that the successes will continue in 2015.
Speaking to the performance of small hotels in Negril, Winthrope Wellington, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Negril Chapter, told Western Focus that hoteliers within the resort town, were feeling very upbeat from the successes experienced in the preceding year.
"In speaking to the membership of the small hoteliers of the JHTA in Negril, I would like to say that they are pleasantly surprised in terms of the occupancy that we felt, especially in the off-season than anything else, and I would include that to be the summer and also the fall," Wellington, who also operates the Travellers Beach Resort, said.
Best fall numbers
"It has been reported to me that these are some of the best fall numbers that weve seen, as traditionally, September, October and early November are low-occupancy months, and thats a real struggle for small hoteliers. But this year, I can say it was almost as if we were mid-season in November," he said.
According to the Jamaica Tourist Boards latest statistical report, during January to November 2014, 89.8 per cent (1,563,540) of the 1,739,858 foreign nationals visited the island for leisure, while the remainder visited for business and other purposes. During the same period in 2013, there were 1,681,830 visitors to the island with 1,508,391 (89.7 per cent) visiting for leisure.
The report also said that of the 157,737 stopover arrivals who visited Jamaica in November 2014, the Negril resort area received 33,844 or 21.5 per cent, while Montego Bay welcomed 56,053 or 35.5 per cent and that the pattern was the same throughout January to November 2014. During November 2013, there were 148,512 stopover arrivals 49,614 (33.4 per cent) of whom stayed in the Montego Bay resort area, while 32,246 or 21.7 per cent chose to stay in Negril.
Wellington said that based on the current trends, he is projecting that the new year will be just as rewarding for small hoteliers in the resort town.
"2015 is looking very good, especially for the winter tourist season. Most hotels that I spoke to are very booked out especially for the month of February, and January is also looking just as good," he said.
In Montego Bay, players in the small hotel sector are also celebrating their performance over 2014, branding the year as being the best since the financial meltdown and ensuing recession of 2008 in the United States.
Best year since the recession
"It's been the best year since the recession," said Joanne Robertson, general manager of Coyaba Beach Resort. "We've had five years of little to no growth, but 2014 has actually been good ... . The growth we see now, we are very grateful for it, but we have a lot of catching up to do because of the last four or five years."
However, citing recent developments in relations between Cuba and the United States, Robertson was more guarded in her forecast going forward.
"We hope that the upbeat that we have seen for 2014 continues for 2015, but we can only hope as a lot depends on the economy in the States. A lot also depends on Cuba and what happens there and how quickly that happens, so there are a lot of factors that would impact how we do," Robertson, who also chairs the Montego Bay Chapter of the JHTA said.
"Specifically for Montego Bay, I'm really hoping that the Convention Centre starts performing the way it was projected to, because that fills the entire area, and if the entire area fills, then it trickles down to me, so I'm hoping for all the large hotels to do well," she added.