At the end of the renovation and by the time the resorts open there should be a total room count of 475.
Last month, the Melia Hotels International signed an agreement to collaborate with the government of Jamaica for the management and restoration of the now defunct Grand Lido Braco, a former luxury casino, in the Trelawny district, which had 225 rooms. The new property, renamed Melia Braco Village, will be entering an upbeat Jamaican tourism marketplace.
Melia Braco Village is operated by Melia Hotels International, which is one of the largest hotel chains in the world and Jamaica is its second English-speaking Caribbean destination. Recently, the Spanish chain opened a resort in Nassau, Bahamas. The new Braco hotel is part of an investment program, with $54 billion, being injected into the tourism industry since 2012.
Winter is coming and so are Melia Braco’s guests
A winter opening was announced by Melia’s regional vice-president, Alvaro Tejeda Schroder, during a groundbreaking ceremony at the property located in the Parish of Trelawny, North West of the island, last week Friday. Last year, the hotel’s general manager, Dimitris Kosvogiannis, was hoping that the future Melia Braco Village resort would be open for summer 2015.
However, court hearings between contractors and Jamaica’s National Insurance Fund (NIF) over a pension fund issue, pushed the scheduled opening date further away. The resort will operate under a 15-year lease agreement with NIF, which owns the property.
A complete renovation of the the property is expected, in addition to the 250 more rooms to be constructed. The Melia Braco Village resort will be characterized by colonial-style, beachfront buildings. It will also house five restaurants, several bars, pools and spas, and perhaps there will be some mobile betting going on too.
Melia added to list of top hotel and resort chains investing in Jamaica
According to Alvaro Tejeda Schroeder, Melia’s regional vice president of the Americas, “Jamaica is a long-awaited destination for Melia Hotels International; the English-speaking Caribbean is a major focus in our global expansion strategy. This property represents a major milestone in the company’s efforts to establish its brands in major vacation destinations, like Jamaica, in the Caribbean.”
Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr Wykeham McNeill, said the Melia plans constituted a part of the $470 million hospitality that suppliers have invested in Jamaica’s tourism sector over the last 3 years. He said that “The investments we have on the books now will see the addition of another 1,600 new rooms to Jamaica over the next 18 months and a number of those rooms are right here in Trelawny,”
Melia officials did not release information pertaining to the possible building of a casino, which could up profits. Under Jamaican gambling laws, casinos can offer table games but must be located inside hotels which has at least 2,000 rooms. Most of the resort hotels in Jamaica are located on the north coast, west coast of the island or in Kingston, the capital.
PICA praised for wonderful work being done
McNeill revealed that Jamaica’s Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) was instrumental in allowing the country to be able process the country’s growing tourist arrivals which amount to “4,000 to 5,000 within any 4-5 hour period”.
McNeil said that “PICA has worked with us in doing away with outgoing immigration, with putting in kiosks, with getting up to 34 immigration officers. We still have a lot more to do, but it is the collaboration of these ministries that is really helping us in the tourism industry.”
Tourism has always played a key role in Jamaica’s economy and this latest initiative is part of the ongoing investment in the tourist industry, which continues to fuel the country’s economic development. The island attracts tourists because of its diversity. It’s geographical make up consists of mountains slicing through the entire island, one of them the Blue Mountains where the world’s most expensive coffee is grown.
Ackee and saltfish, the national dish, is a rarity
Jamaica also offers a tropical climate, warm sea, white sandy beaches, hundreds of rivers and falls, mostly with spanish names. The Caribbean island is host to many indigenous flowers, birds and bugs. The national dish, ackee and saltfish is as rare as it is good. Other popular spicy Jamaican food that the island has to offer are rice and peas, jerk chicken, bammy, fried fish and stew peas and rice. Of course the warm hospitality of the people is what keeps tourists coming back too.
McNeill added that “Arrivals are up, the hotels are full, and the airports are bursting at the seams. When your occupancies are up, it drives demand and when you drive demand, you drive investments and we are now seeing the fruits of that investment”. The regional VP was thrilled about his chain being devoted to “providing the Melia passion for service, even while fostering a strategic partnership of 370 hotels in 40 countries”
Schroder pointed out that the Melia Hotel Group database boasts collectors of Melia vacations ready to visit Jamaica. So, to cater for the needs of all the visitors and Jamaicans who enjoy going to the hotels too, some 400 hospitality workers will be employed when the hotel opens.
Optimization of Jamaican labour force
In light of Melia’s plans to expand the property, it is projected that the renovation of the existing facility and construction of an additional 250 rooms will provide as many as 700 jobs. Kosvogiannis, Greek by birth and a naturalized Jamaican, having worked there for over 20 years, emphasized that all the employees will be Jamaican.
He stated that “There is no one that can convince me … that Jamaican human resources do not produce very capable and highly intelligent individuals that can sit at the helm of any organization.” Upon completion of the hotel, Melia Braco will provide employment for some 400 people.