Portland took a huge step on its return journey to tourism eminence with the soft opening of a completely refurbished Trident Hotel and Villas on December 26.
The upscale property owned by Jamaican-Canadian billionaire Michael Lee Chin has been redeveloped under a Portland Renaissance programme being managed by the GeeJam Group, and which is intent on bringing together all the major tourism stakeholders in the parish where Jamaica's leisure industry was born decades ago.
"We broke ground in April last year and completed the work and welcomed our first check-in on December 22," GeeJam founder Jon Baker told Caribbean Business Report yesterday.
Baker said last year he was approached by Lee Chin who asked him to join forces with his (Lee Chin's) Portland Holdings Inc to "take over the Trident property and make it happen in terms of design and development and manage it through our GeeJam brand".
Other major tourism projects are in the works under the renaissance programme for which Lee Chin is investing a combined US$30m-$40m.
When it is fully up and running, Trident, whose 13 suites are 1,500 square feet each, will provide at least 65 jobs. New employment opportunities will open up when the other projects are completed.
Yesterday, Baker was upbeat about the future of Port Antonio, the Portland capital, as he pointed out that other investors are making use of opportunities there.
"There are other foreigners investing in Port Antonio, they see the potential," he said. "Obviously the whole world has been derailed over the economic situation, [but] we're indeed optimistic that we'll be in a good position in the next few years."
Once a high-end jewel for tourists, Portland has largely been ushered under the radar. Lee-Chin and other successful Jamaican businessmen are attempting to restore the parish through heavy investments, while pressuring the government to play its part in developing the infrastructure to complement the billions of dollars being pumped in.
Among the number of projects that have been initiated in a bid to redevelop Portland into a premier restort town is the renovation of the Blue Lagoon attraction, which is also owned by Lee-Chin's Portland Holdings and managed by GeeJam.
"Blue Lagoon will be the primary focus of GeeJam and Portland Holdings for 2013," Baker said in an earlier interview.
Phase one of that hotel project will begin in 2013. The area will be cleaned and public bathrooms will be put in place for the project. And when completed, the attraction will feature a restaurant, a botanical garden and a museum, said Baker.
"We believe that Blue Lagoon will be key to attract tourists to Portland," he said.