RIU eyes more Jamaican hotels
Up to US$100m investment in Trelawny resort
RIU Resorts will pump between US$80 million and US$100 million into its newest Jamaican resort, RIU Aquarelle in Trelawny, creating some 450 jobs in the long term and 800 during construction, says Carmen Riu, chief executive officer of the hotel chain.
Ms Riu had just completed the groundbreaking ceremony in Coopers Pen for a 700-room resort in the fastest-growing tourism area in the country when she revealed to The Gleaner how important Jamaica was to the chain, which was the first Spanish investor to construct a resort here.
Beaming with pride, the CEO, who already operates seven resorts between Negril and Ocho Rios, said 15 per cent of its 28,000 staff were based here.
“Jamaica has been good to us, and within another two to three years, we hope to build another resort here,” she said.
The chain, which has more than 100 hotels and accommodated millions of guests worldwide in 2021, was lauded by Prime Minister Andrew Holness for its contribution to Jamaica’s growth trajectory.
In his keynote address, Holness urged the Trelawny community to fully embrace the project as part of their local economy.
“For while they may not be the shareholders, we have to acknowledge them as stakeholders in the success of the project,” he argued.
Construction on the resort is estimated to last 14 months.
RIU is Jamaica’s largest hotel operator and will boast more than 4,053 rooms upon completion of the project.
Holness commended the operators for their role in propelling Jamaica as one of the most sought-after destinations in the Caribbean.
He noted that the country’s global position did not emerge overnight.
“The industry has taken on increased significance because the truth is the Government has focused on the industry and has given leadership and direction and emphasis to the industry. Tourism plays a critical role in the Government’s road to prosperity for the people,” the prime minister said.
Tova Hamilton, Trelawny Northern member of parliament, in whose constituency the new resort will be situated, welcomed development.
“I believe that our people need to prepare themselves. We don’t want this type of development to come and they don’t benefit from it. I want our young people to get themselves trained so at the end of the day, they don’t have a situation where it seems unfair to the locals,” she cautioned.
The spinoffs she sees include housing and infrastructure. Hamilton says she will be working in tandem with developers to facilitate smooth progress.
Already, Holness has expressed concerns regarding the prospect of labour shortages, forewarning that Jamaica may have to import skilled workers with seven major projects in the pipeline.
He was quick to qualify that the problem was not a shortage of people, but of labour.
“To be counted as part of the labour force, there are some standards that you have to meet. You have to be 16 years and older, and you have to be actively seeking work over a certain period of time,” he explained.
Holness underscored that many Jamaicans who are not in the labour force are not seeking, or have no interest in, work.
Up to three weeks ago, the prime minister floated the idea of mandatory national service or training for the country’s youths.
Jamaica has an unemployment rate of just over seven per cent.