CHARELA INN, a Negril-based hotel that grows its own food, will undergo a $50 million (US$500,000) upgrade and expansion to bolster its room count to 50.
Hotelier and farmer Donald Grizzle indicated that the growth in European travellers aided the investment.
"We will be refurbishing most of the rooms, passageways and putting up six more deluxe rooms. That will be 50 rooms in all when completed," he told the Observer in a phone interview on Wednesday. The retrofitting is budgeted at $4 million and expansion at $46 million, said Grizzle, the owner and property manager.
The property, located on the famous 7-mile Beach stretch, appeals to travellers searching for an "authentic Jamaican experience". Grizzle said that the expansion therefore needed to maximise on local inputs to maintain that appeal.
"All the furniture is made locally. I find that my guests appreciate that. We try to be as Jamaican as possible," said Grizzle who is also director (emeritus) at the Negril Chamber of Commerce.
Some 95 per cent of the hotel's food is grown at the 170-acre farm in Hanover, said Grizzle, who is also a trained farmer.
"The lamb is made locally and the guests appreciate that. We raise chickens and beef. The vegetables are mostly produced by local farmers and I grow a little myself," he said. "The guests enjoy the fact that they are eating food close to the property."
The farm employs eight full-time workers and another eight seasonal ones, while the hotel employs 50, he said.
Grizzle indicated that linking tourism and agriculture provides financial and personal benefits.
"I am very keen on maximising our Jamaican inputs. We try for our guests to see the real Jamaica. As a hotelier and farmer, there is a pride in providing jobs whilst also being able to maintain a large amount of the tourist spend in Jamaica."
Government wants more hotels to adopt closer linkages with the agriculture sector in order to reduce the island's trade deficit currently at some US$2.2 billion for the first six months of 2013, according to data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica.
"The farm increases our value- added tremendously by using home- grown products, and by not substituting with foreign imports more of the money stays in Jamaica. The people on my farm are there because of tourism. A lot more people need to understand the linkages between tourism and agriculture."
The expansion should be complete before the end of this winter tourist season.
During the winter up to 70 per cent of guests are North Americans (US and Canadians) and the remainder from Europe, while in summer the guest profile shifts more towards Europeans, according to Grizzle.
Last March, Oxford Economics study commissioned by Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), indicated that 70 per cent of tourist spending remains in the island and the remainder leaked.
Tthe study, entitled Tourism as a Driver of Jamaica's Economic Development, expanded on Government's direct accounting of the tourism sector as 7.3 per cent of gross output by including indirect and induced value, or its economic value at 19.5 per cent. Interestingly, that study served as a counter to the long-held view that some 70 per cent of the tourist spend leaves the island in the form of leakages.