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Sagicor breaks ground for US$5m water park - Group happy with tourism investment

Published:Monday | June 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM
From left: Rich Cortese, Aimbridge Hospitality's senior vice-president for development and operations (Caribbean); Tourism and Entertainment Minister Wykeham McNeill; Richard Byles, chief executive officer and president of Sagicor Group; and CEO of Sagicor XFunds, Rohan Miller, carry out the official ground-breaking exercise for the multimillion-dollar water park at the Jewel Runaway Bay Beach and Golf Resort last Thursday. - Photo by Claudia Gardner

Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator

WESTERN BUREAU:

President and chief executive officer of Sagicor Group, Richard Byles, has expressed satisfaction with the returns on multibillion-dollar investments his organisation has made in Jamaica's hotel and tourism sector over the last two years.

Byles made his comments last Thursday during a ground-breaking ceremony for a new water park at the Jewel Runaway Bay Beach and Golf Resort in St Ann, an attraction which will be one of the largest of its kind in the Caribbean.

"This water park is part of that investment we are making in the product … . It's going to cost us about US$5 million (J$550 million) to create what will be an excellent world-class water park attraction. And it is going to make this hotel a premier family destination," Byles said.

"When we spend this US$5 million on the water park, Sagicor would have invested US$60 million (J$6.6 billion) in the tourism business in the last 24 months," Byles added. "We feel very bullish about this business of tourism. We know that it occupies a space in-between the two political parties, both of whom know and understand the importance of this business to Jamaica, and so we feel very comfortable in investing in it. And we feel Jamaica is poised for growth and we want to be part of that growth."

Byles said Sagicor Group now has a total of 741 hotel rooms in Jamaica, having acquired Jewel Runaway Bay 24 months ago, Jewel Paradise Cove just over a year ago, as well as properties within the Dunn's River area.

"It (investing in tourism) has done very well for us, especially over the last year, as the hotels have matured, our occupancies have risen, and our room rates have risen, and that is really very important because although we like to have high occupancies, what we like even more is strong room rates. And to get those room rates, we now have to invest. And we have been doing so, particularly in this property (Jewel Runaway Bay)," Byles said.

UPGRADING ROOMS

"… We have gone through and changed all the furniture in the entire room count here in this hotel. And we are in the process of upgrading the rooms, all the bathrooms, and when you come back here when the tourist season starts, it will be like a brand-new experience," he added.

The water park is scheduled to open in time for the 2014-2015 winter tourist season. It will include, among other things, family raft rides, private cabanas and waterfall coves with a raindrop umbrella feature, beach entrance with in-floor shooting geysers, and a waterslide splash-down pool.

Guests to the facility will also have access to an oceanfront 5,000-sq ft sundeck, a raised entertainment stage for live music, a full-service dining plaza, bar and grill, as well as private club locker rooms with showers. The park will be open to guests of the hotel as well as to the public, and will also be available for the hosting of private evening functions and events.

claudia.gardner@gleanerjm.com