With the local hotel room-stock set to grow by 20,000 new rooms over the next five to ten years, Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett has welcomed a resurgence of the villas sub-sector. Crediting the COVID-19 pandemic for bringing about a revival in villas for visitor accommodation, he said “Jamaica is now leading the way in providing new and exciting villa experiences for tourists across the region.”

His disclosure came as he gave the keynote address at the official opening of the $1.3 billion Bengal Cove Villas development in Discovery Bay over the weekend. He told the directors that he was very proud of what they were doing and that “I have more of these types of properties to open along this coast all the way to St Mary.”

Dubbing the north-eastern coastal region development as “the Jamaican Riviera”, he said discussions were underway “with some other people who are coming up with some other programmes for places like Robin’s Bay and Oracabessa and we’re going to be encouraging more and more Jamaicans to participate in this very important sub-sector of the industry.”

Mr Bartlett told the directors of Bengal Cove Villas that they were part of a growing segment of the accommodation sub-sector in Jamaica, citing that last year 29 percent of the approximately 3 million stopover visitors that came to Jamaica were in what he termed “the shared economy” pioneered by entities such as Airbnb. He also underscored the democratization of the accommodation sub-sector and that a large group of people with varied size homes, apartments and villas “are now inserted in the tourism value chain, broadening therefore the range of participants in the industry, but more importantly providing slices of the pie for a larger number of Jamaican people.”

In a word of advice to persons venting concerns, he implored them to band together to reap greater rewards from the industry. Regarding hotel room-stock, the minister said Jamaica was going into a very important phase in its development as a country in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) “and right now on the cards, 20,000 new hotel rooms are to be built in Jamaica over the next five to ten years.”

He expressed concerns however, at approvals taking long periods to be finalized and underscored that “we need to develop that efficiency in construction that allows for us to start and complete projects in a time frame that allows for a fiscal cycle that is manageable.” While stating that the rules must be adhered to, he said central to this was the development orders, requirements for the administrative arrangements and the applications when they come in, “but more importantly we have to be more pointed in terms of the requirements to fulfil what is needed to enable fast approval.”

Minister Bartlett also implored those persons who he said might be a little anxious “and perhaps even a little disingenuous in terms of their comments about how things are going, to realize that the achievements of Jamaica and the growth that we have enabled did not come without some disruptions, and human capital disruptions is part of it.” In this regard he pointed to the global tourism and travel industry losing seven million workers during the pandemic and the difficulty being faced in getting them back.