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Jamaica Palace hanging on despite difficult times

Published:Saturday | June 16, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Azzariah Fahmie - Photo by Gareth Davis

Gareth Davis, Gleaner Writer

DRAPERS, Portland:

HIS LOVE for Jamaica is the primary reason which has allowed hotelier Azzariah Fahmie of Jamaica Palace hotel in Portland to continue his livelihood in a sector that has lost many of its players over the last decade and a half.

The once-booming hotel sector in Portland, which enjoyed booming business in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, has nosedived during the last 10 years. Despite its low occupancy level, the doors of the Jamaica Palace hotel have remained open in the wake of serious financial challenges.

"We are now at the bottom of the barrel. Four years ago when the recession started, the signs were that we would be greatly impacted. But long before that, we had our challenges, not just here, but just about every other hotel in Port Antonio as a result of the sudden pull-out of cruise ships at the Ken Wright pier. The overhead costs to run and maintain this hotel are alarming, but despite that, I have not fired a single worker," Fahmie told The Gleaner.

He explained, however, that with the low occupancy level, which varies from anywhere between six to 15 people each, month, he has been forced to cut back on the number of workdays allotted to employees.

Decline since May 2010

"Things are slow at this time, and up until May 2010, just before the security forces' incursion into Tivoli Gardens, we were holding our heads above the water, but since then, business is at a standstill. Those workers - including kitchen staff, housekeepers, waiters, and others who have chosen to remain - are now asked to come in three days per week. I have not fired anyone. I don't know how we do it as each day seems to be our last in business, but God has been good to us."

Built like a European-type hotel, Jamaica Palace, with its 80 spacious rooms, has a built-in waterfall, an entertainment lounge, and a conference room.

According to Fahmie, from time to time, the hotel benefits from visits from government workers, to whom they are ever grateful. He noted that many times, just to survive the pitfall, the hotel is forced to cut its room rates by half in order to attract business.

The Jamaica Palace hotel is less than five minutes from Port Antonio and lies to the east of the town near Drapers. The outer walls are made of marble and stone, and the entire building is painted in white as a symbol of purity. The hotel is nestled in a tropical atmosphere with its scenic view, pristine beauty, and lush vegetation.