Over the next three years, Jamaica will welcome new overwater bungalows as part of the destination’s first Unico Hotels property.
In an exclusive interview with Travel Market Report, Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, said Unico Hotels will be the third and final hotel to be announced as part of a massive resort project in the parish of St. James.
The AIC hotel group first launched the adult-only all-inclusive Unico Hotels product in 2016 in Mexico.
“The brand is very popular among Millennials and Gen Xers,” Bartlett told TMR, “so it signals the start of a really strong movement toward that demographic.”
The other two hotels will be a Hard Rock Casino & Resort and a property of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. The Hard Rock was the first of three to be announced earlier this year, while the Ritz-Carlton brand’s return to Jamaica was announced at the recent Caribbean Marketplace conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Ritz-Carlton left Jamaica nearly a decade ago when it ceased operating the Rose Hall resort in Montego Bay. The Ritz-Carlton had managed the 427-room resort for the 13 years of operation. The new construction will also be located in the Rose Hall neighborhood, not too far from the Ritz-Carlton’s previous location, Bartlett said.
The three hotels will have approximately 2,000 hotel rooms. Groundbreaking will take place in phases over a three-year period, Bartlett added. Unico will be the first to innovate, which he says could happen by the end of November.
Although construction will begin on the entire project without the Hard Rock officially receiving a gaming license, Bartlett said projects that have applied for a casino license and begun construction will be judged on the progress of the construction and whether all requirements are met. .
He added that casino licenses are expected to be granted to three hotels soon as there will be no standalone casinos in Jamaica.
“The casino experience in the tourism space is in the context of integrated development,” Bartlett said. “It’s about adding value to the destination and appealing to this high-spending demographic.”
Bartlett said the first hotel that could see a casino in Jamaica is the Princess Hotels & Resorts property, which is under construction with its first 1,000 of 2,000 rooms near Negril.
“It’s well on its way and it’s expected to be Jamaica’s first casino,” Bartlett said of the Princess. “We reduced it to three licenses to be awarded. We’re doing our final due diligence, but they’re one of three.
Bartlett, the Princess Hotels & Property announcement could come as early as the end of this month, with the other two licenses also being granted soon.
Hard Rock is an obvious choice for the award of one of the three licenses, but the third hotel project that could be awarded a casino license might surprise some.
Harmony Cove, the highly anticipated luxury project that is already set to house a Tiger Woods-designed golf course, is the third project, according to Bartlett, that will most likely be licensed to operate a casino. Located on Jamaica’s north coast between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, Harmony Cove is a 2,325-acre beachfront resort.
“The critical importance of the model that Jamaica has adopted,” Bartlett said, “is that it will not stand on its own, to define Jamaica as a casino destination, but rather as a destination where you can enjoy a casino experience. casino So we brought it into the integrated development, so it’s not just a casino, but also high-end rooms, food, shops.
March 9 was the deadline for responses to the Government’s Request for Applications (RFA) in its multi-billion dollar integrated resort developments, which could see up to $1 billion invested in Jamaica. The RFA was opened on October 6, 2021.
Such developments, made possible by amendments to the Casino Gaming Act, must have at least 1,000 hotel rooms, of which 500 must be luxury rooms.
Development plans for a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino represent an investment of approximately $800 million. The Ritz-Carlton will be new construction, but no further information regarding groundbreaking or a planned grand opening was available.
Frontier Airlines will launch new gateways to Jamaica, including from Denver, St. Louis and Chicago, in December, said Donovan White, Jamaica’s director of tourism. This will bring the total number of gateways to Jamaica in the United States to eight, he added.
Also in December, White told TMR that Spirit Airlines would launch service from Bradley Airport in Hartford. Finally, this winter, White said Delta Airlines will operate new flights from Boston to Jamaica.
Just in time for the 2023-24 season, MSC Cruises will expand its presence in Jamaica, bringing the total number of ships (of all lines) calling in Jamaica to 16, White said.
“MSC is the only cruise line that grows [here] now and doing phenomenal right now,” White said. “The cruise industry is coming back. We expect to see roughly 2019 levels very soon.
The return of JAPEX
The Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) is expected to fully return in 2023, White said. It was scheduled to return in November 2021, as a hybrid in-person/virtual event, was later postponed to early 2022 and is now expected to return fully in early 2023.
“When we bring JAPEX back, it would almost feel like a point of explanation on top of all the other recoveries we’ve made from COVID,” White said. “And we hope that exclamation mark will come very early in 2023.”
A location for JAPEX has yet to be determined, but White said “it will likely be hosted at the Montego Bay Convention Center.” It will be a very special event that will be highly celebrated.