Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Playa Hotels and Resorts has purchased the five-diamond Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall resort in Montego Bay, a 5,000 acre ocean-front luxury resort owned by the Rollins family with Urban Development Corporation as minority partner.
The 427-room resort has been on the sale block for the last nine years. Sources say the resort was sold for more than US$70 million.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has operated the property for the last 12 years. Under the purchase agreement, US-based but Spanish-influenced Playa will rename the resort. In the past, this has been a bone of contention since it means the disappearance of the high-profile Ritz-Carlton brand from Jamaica.
The Rollins previously tried to sell the property in 2007 to a Swiss firm, OZ Holdings, but that deal fell through.
Under the new owners some 100 new suites are to be built. It is unclear when the new rooms will be built, but a major refurbishing to transform the resort into an even more upscale luxury facility is also planned.
Work on the upgrades to the resort will begin in June to be completed in time for the next winter tourist season which begins on December 15, 2013.
Playa Hotel specialises in acquisition and development of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, however, this is the first resort to be managed under the Playa brand.
Currently, the company owns 17 all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, which it operates under the Barcelo Hotels & Resorts flag, as well as various AMResort brands, including Dreams and Secrets.
Jamaica is home to two Secrets Resorts in the Montego Freeport area.
"Our goal is to create long-term value for our shareholders through the ownership, redevelopment, repositioning, and aggressive asset management of all-inclusive resorts in attractive markets that present moderate downside risk and long-term capital appreciation potential such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica, Aruba, and The Bahamas," said Playa in a statement.
The new 5,000-acre acquisition is located in exclusive Rose Hall. The 'AAA Five Diamond Resort' offers the seclusion of a beachfront hideaway, complete with an 18-hole championship golf course, a full-service spa, a variety of water sports and recreational activities, five dining outlets and more than 25,000 square feet of meeting and reception space.
Playa is also expected to construct another three restaurants on the property, which is located 15 minutes from the Sangster International Airport.
Efforts at comment on the Ritz-Carlton/Playa deal were unsuccessful, however, the West Virginia-based investors have already submitted their construction plan to the St James Parish Council.
The property is expected to be shuttered during the upgrades and reopen for the winter season.