JHTA Hotelier of the Year leads Altamont Hotels on growth path
The training that hotelier Christopher Jarrett got in engineering technology at the New York Institute of Technology has helped the Altamont Hotels Group to be strategic, precise and prudent in its growth plan towards acquiring 200 rooms by 2021.
“We are on our way to achieving our target with some acquisitions on the horizon in western Jamaica. But I cannot give details because of the delicate stage of negotiations at this time,” said the CEO and managing director of Altamont Hotels.
In 1981, his father, Terence, bought a 12-unit building comprising one-and two-bedroom apartments at 1 Altamont Crescent, Kingston, and converted them to 18 studio apartments for the hospitality trade. Then the property next door at No. 3 became available and 18 more rooms were built, bringing the total at both properties to 36. That number of rooms now stands at 58 at the Kingston location.
The former 21-room Belvedere Hotel on the Montego Bay ‘Hip Strip’ was acquired by the Jarrett family in 2003, who gutted it and added 10 new rooms before it was reopened two years later as the 31-room Altamont West, with added conference facilities.
The modernisation of the Montego Bay property caused a buzz among the hospitality trade and brought the brand to the forefront. “We were among the first to introduce the electronic door locks – or the ‘swipe-card system, as it is commonly known – for each room, which brought a feeling of modern-day security for our guests. Also, we installed flat-screen TVs in each room, which was unheard of at that time in the local hotel industry. The new boutique look and feel distinguished us from other small and medium-sized properties, and stakeholders took notice,” said Jarrett.
“As a boutique hotel chain we have lived by our tag ‘Home in a Hub’, because both properties offer a cozy, intimate home setting, although located in the busy New Kingston business district and the vibrant Montego Bay Hip Strip,” he added.
Reminiscing, the Hotelier of the Year stated that during the early days, when there was a lot more room in the fiscal space, his staff was transported from work, and those on the night shift were dropped at their gates. A pension plan was also set up and again they were among the first hotels in Kingston to do so. That plan still exists today. “We have also operated frugally and reinvested profits into the properties to maintain a high standard of our plant. That approach has allowed our business to secure its position in the marketplace,” he continued.
Jarrett is a hands-on manager with an open-door policy, who, as a student of the respected hospitality trainer Dr Ben Henry, has adopted what he termed the “management by walking around” approach. He makes time for his staff, whether they wish to discuss business or personal matters. Between both properties there are about 80 members of staff – ranging from the maintenance team to room attendants, culinary staff and administrative employees.
“We look for the right attitude when employing staff and if they do not have training in the field, we train them. But we don’t always get it right,” admitted Jarrett.
As the recipient of JHTA’s Hotelier of the Year Award 2019, Jarrett is humbled by the recognition, but sees it as an endorsement of the hard work which his parents, siblings, and especially his employees, have put into building the brand over the past 38 years.