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Hampden Estate, mixing rum and tourism

Published:Tuesday | June 21, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
The Hampden Estate.

While it has downsized its operations as a sugar-growing entity, exciting times are now unfolding at the Hampden Estate in Trelawny, where a new brand is being built around the production of the world-famous Rum Fire liquor, and a tour, which is geared towards attracting visitors to its rustic surroundings.

In a recent interview with The Gleaner, Christelle Harris, marketing director at Hampden Estate, which is located near the St James/Trelawny border, said the estate has already started to test the waters in terms of opening up the facility to the tourism market.

"We have allowed it to take on an organic growth process, and we think it is very timely because of the whole uncertainty of sugar right now," said Harris, in outlining the new direction the estate has taken. "We believe that, in terms of job creation and the importance of Hampden to the people of Trelawny, this it is time to capitalise on what we have there and try to grow it as a tourist product."

The Hampden Estate, which was founded in 1753, is part of a historic tradition of sugar manufacturing in Jamaica. In earlier times, it was owned by the Farquharsen family and then later by the Government of Jamaica. In 2009, the Government divested it to the Hussey family-owned Everglades Farms Limited, the current operators.

At present, Hampden offers tours of its distillery and the grounds of the estate's great house from Mondays to Fridays, primarily to cruise ship passengers docking in Falmouth. Each tour has a duration of two hours.

While Harris did not have an exact figure as to how many persons have toured the estate which is growing in popularity as an attraction, she said the entity started the visitation concept on a small scale and has been steadily building on the successes it has been reaping.

"We started very small because we needed to be able to iron out the kinks and be confident that we could handle the amount of visitors coming in and have properly trained staff," explained Harris. "This past high season, we actually did quite well, and everybody who has gone on sites and reviewed us, like TripAdvisor.com, has even given us four or five stars. We, ourselves, can see we have a good product, but when we see those reviews coming in and they are good reviews, it is very rewarding."

Additionally, Harris said Hampden has forged a very good relationship with tour operators and cruise ships as part of its bid to generate more success.

"We have a relationship with the ships that come in, and we hope to be able to garner the attention of the cruise lines," said Harris. " ... we created the relationship with them. They have been to our estate a bunch of times ... the same goes for our tour operators on the ground here in Jamaica."

"We do quite well with the smaller tour operators who have customers who are looking for niche experiences," continue Harris. "We have tourists who have been to lots of distilleries in the world and want to go to this one because this is the only distillery in the world that is making rum the way we do."

According to Harris, part of the appeal of Hampden is that their tour is somewhat unique as it is basically a work in progress, which tour operators find exciting.

"That is the kind of organic relationship that has developed, but we do hope to reach further, and we are in conversation with a few of the bigger tour operators to have them come on board," stated Harris. "We are looking into creating sounder and better relationships so we can grow our visitor base over the next calendar year."