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Bartlett expresses concern over Ritz-Carlton sale

Published:Thursday | May 9, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

Opposition Spokesman on Tourism Edmund Bartlett is questioning the profile of the new investors who have purchased The Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall in Montego Bay, St James.

"The implications for our appeal as a destination to the high-yielding demographics in the marketplace is of tremendous concern, as we are yet to determine whether the entity that will replace The Ritz will fit the profile and be of equal stature," Bartlett said in a media release yesterday afternoon.

He was responding to news that the five-diamond Montego Bay resort would lock shop on May 20, forcing 400 persons out of their jobs. The employees were told in a meeting with management yesterday morning that they would be made redundant.

Bartlett has described the impending closure as a body blow to Jamaica's tourism sector, as The Ritz-Carlton remained the only internationally acclaimed high-end brand on the island.

The new players are the Playa Hotels and Resorts, a Virginia-based company which specialises in acquisition and development of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Currently, the company owns and operates 17 all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic under the Barcelo Hotels & Resorts flag, as well as various AMResort brands, including Dreams and Secrets.

Minister needs to act now

The departure of The Ritz-Carlton, Bartlett lamented, coupled with the failure of the Palmyra development, is a "double whammy" for the prospects of the Elegant Corridor fulfilling its promise of being the high-end destination of Jamaica.

He warned that it is imperative that Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill moves quickly to dispel the pale of doubt hovering over destination Jamaica at this time "following a disturbing five per cent decline in both earnings and arrivals in the just-concluded winter tourist season, the withdrawal of one of the pioneers of the all-inclusive model and a highly respected hotelier in the global marketplace".

He has criticised the Government's ability to attract investments at the higher end of the market.

"Nothing short of a clear and convincing strategy to reposition the industry and restore full confidence across the sector and throughout the marketplace is required at this time," he added.

In the meantime, Playa plans to put in some 100 new suites in addition to the 427 rooms that currently exist.

Their massive refurbishing plan will see the transformation of the resort into an even more upscale luxury facility. Construction is set to begin in June, highly placed sources said.