PM elated with new hotel operators also building houses for workers
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (fourth right) is joined by (from left) mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Leeroy Williams Rafael Chapur of RCD Hotel Group, Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, Rodrigo Chapur of RCD Hotel Group, Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell; and minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister (Western Region), Homer Davis while participating in the ground-breaking for the 451-room UNICO Montego Bay Hotel in St James on Friday. (Photo: Philp Lemonte)

LILLIPUT, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness is impressed with RCD Hotels' announcement that in addition to constructing the 451 rooms Unico Montego Bay Hotel, estimated to value US$136 million, the company will also be building some 1,000 housing units to be sold to hotel workers.

The prime minister was on Friday afternoon delivering the keynote address at the ground breaking for Unico Montego Bay in this community that will, in the construction phase, employ over 1,000 workers and subsequently over 600 new employees upon the completion of the building process.

"...We are also very much pleased to hear that you [RDC] come to Jamaica with a social consciousness about housing for those 600-plus tourism workers. It has been the case that we have built out hotel rooms for our visitors. Unfortunately, we haven't built rooms for the workers," Holness stated.

"I want to welcome the RCD group to Jamaica. We're very happy to have you as a development partner. And we know that it is not just an investment in our sun, sea, and sand. You're also going to be investing in our society."

He bemoamed that in the past the development of hotel rooms was not accompanied by housing projects for the workers.

"It has led to a situation where the comfort of the visitors is sometimes far more than the comfort of the people who work in the hotels, and they have to survive and they have to build places for themselves, which may, if not properly organised, if the forward planning isn't put into place, detract from the rooms that we build for the visitors and take away from the product," Holness stated.

"So if we are truly interested in building an excellent product, then we must not only build rooms for visitors, we also have to build rooms for the workers."

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett also announced that, apart from the housing development, a partnership has also been entered into with RCD to construct a stadium in Lilliput, where the Único Montego Bay will be located.

The tourism minister expressed that all future negotiations for hotel developments will include a social development component.

"And so I wanted to say that, initially, Prime Minister, while we welcome this, and I'm just saying all subsequent discussions with investors coming into Jamaica for tourism will take into account the impact of the environment, the impact of the social development within the areas, and the governance of the area," Bartlett stated.

"But I like to feel that what we are doing here is the start of, Prime Minister, a new perspective on tourism development in Jamaica. And the resumption of the COVID that we are calling recovery... and we are afraid to say recover too loudly across the world, but certainly in Jamaica we can say recovering loudly, because we have recovered."

He added that the RDC will also be constructing a Hard Rock Hotel on the same strip where Unico will be located in short order.

"I have the liberty to say, Prime Minister, that it is not just Unico. Unico starts the process. The next will be Hard Rock and many more to come, which we will tell you about. Some very high-end ones that are in the offing and it's going to be a real game changer for tourism, not just in Montego Bay but in Jamaica as a whole," Bartlett announced.

Vice-President of Development-RCD Rodrigo Chapur said he was happy to bring the second Único in the hotel chain to Jamaica.

"Minister Bartlett, you welcome our family and company from day one and we are happy in finally bringing Unico here in Jamaica. It is our second Unico and its a great brand," Chapur said.

BY HORACE HINES Staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

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