Negril's 140-room Azul Sensatori Hotel officially opens
TOURISM Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill says demand for destination Jamaica is growing in some markets that were previously unresponsive or unreachable, due to visa requirements or lack of airlift.
Speaking at the opening of Jamaica's newest hotel, Minister McNeill said that following efforts to boost airlift and relax visa restrictions, "we've changed that and markets are responding in a very positive way".
He was addressing Monday night's official opening of the 140-room Azul Sensatori Jamaica by Karisma. The new five-star hotel, located on Negril's famous seven-mile beach, is the first Sensatori hotel in the English-speaking Caribbean and is operated as a partnership between Karisma Hotels and leading holiday company, TUI Travel PLC.
"Our partnership with TUI has grown from strength to strength, and as Europe's largest tour company they have multiplied the number of seats into Jamaica and now they are complementing that arrangement with the opening of their premium brand hotel which will provide additional rooms. This investment also comes at a time when we are seeing market response to our visa relaxation initiatives and when airlift to Jamaica is arguably the best it's ever been," said the tourism minister.
He added: "This development adds a significant dimension to the island's tourism product and this valuable partnership with TUI adds formidable muscle to Jamaica's tourism team. It is good that we are attracting such premium brands that complement brand Jamaica. Recognition of the Azul Sensatori brand will resonate with an important and discerning demographic in the travel market.
"We are obviously delighted to welcome such a prestigious brand to the family. We greatly appreciate the opportunities offered for employment and, in turn, we undertake to work with TUI and look forward to a continued relationship."
In his remarks, CEO of TUI Travel PLC, Peter Long, said Jamaica's success at the London 2012 Olympics has helped to re-awaken Jamaica as a destination, in particular for our UK customers, where this year we will see some 100,000 of those customers coming to the island, a 60 per cent increase year-on-year.
"Being able to offer not only a wonderful destination but an unrivalled flight experience on our Boeing 787s is putting Jamaica high on the wish list for our customers. In fact, Thomson Airways operates more direct flights to Jamaica than any other European airline five times a week," Long said.
TUI has increased air service out of the UK from 50,302 seats in 2013 to 90,832 into Jamaica in 2014. In November 2013, Jamaica was the first country in the Caribbean to welcome the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft through a partnership with Thomson Airways and its parent company, TUI Travel PLC.
The growth in customer numbers from TUI Travel is not coming only from the UK but also from TUI's other markets such as Canada. "In total, during the upcoming Summer and Winter seasons 120,000 TUI customers will holiday on the island, and our joint-venture with Sunwing will bring a further 100,000 Canadian customers," Mr Long revealed. "Based on length of stay for 120,000 TUI customers, we are talking about 1.4 million bed nights. That's substantial and delivers great value to the island," he added.
Long, at the same time, said that for TUI to maintain and grow its capacity in Jamaica it would have to further develop its unique and exclusive hotels, like the Sensatori Resort Jamaica. He also outlined plans to add another 150 rooms to its tally in Jamaica. TUI, he said, regards Jamaica as a volume mainstream destination and will look to work with its hotel partners to grow the company.
TUI Travel PLC is one of the world's largest leisure travel companies serving more than 30 million customers in over 31 source markets, while Karisma Hotels & Resorts is a renowned leader in hospitality management and enjoys worldwide recognition for its creative approach to hospitality management and innovation. Their collection of award-winning properties is known, in particular, for offering a gourmet-inclusive product.