Negril hoteliers bullish about winter season

Despite the detection of cases of Omicron, a new variant of the novel coronavirus, in at least 20 countries, hoteliers in the resort town of Negril are looking for a bullish winter tourist season.

“The winter season looks very good. The reservations are very good. For the Christmas week, we are fully booked,” said Sophia Grizzle Roumel of Charela Inn Hotel in Negril, a 59-room Jamaican-owned property.

She said, however, that some clients wanted to cancel their bookings after hearing about the detection of the new variant of the coronavirus, but the hotel has managed to convince them not to.

“We have had quite a few of the clients asking us about the fear of this new variety of COVID. We have been sending them all the information about the resilient corridor and how successful it has been and how Jamaica has really been on top of making sure that everybody is trained and all the protocols maintained throughout the industry, and we are hoping that after having such good results from that we can encourage and reassure the guests that it is still safe to come to Jamaica,” Grizzle Roumel argued.

She stated that there is a pent-up demand for travel once prospective visitors can get over their fears of travelling.

“So it (winter season) looks good and we are hopeful, just hoping that this new variant does not turn out to be something to be worried about.”

On 26 November, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the variant called Omicron “a variant of concern.”

The decision was based on evidence which suggested that the variant has several mutations that may have an impact on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. The variant was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in countries including Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Spain, Sweden, France, Hong Kong, Italy, and Germany.

The new variant comes at a time when the tourism industry is looking forward to its first best Christmas season since 2019.

Last week, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) President Clifton Reader told the Jamaica Observer West that a survey carried out in mid-November indicated forward bookings of an average of about 65 per cent for the winter season. He said the average in 2019 — before the onset of the coronavirus—was between 65 and 70 per cent.

“The last survey that we did shows that we are almost on par with what we did in 2019. So, in 2019, we are almost showing the same figures as now going into the winter,” he stated.

Hotelier and president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce Richard Wallace is equally optimistic about the winter season.

“Bookings are up as far as I am hearing,” stated Wallace, who is the operator of Boardwalk Village in Negril.

“We are hopeful that everything will materialise and that nothing will happen that will jeopardise it between now and then, but so far, we are very happy with how the season is looking.”

“So we don't want any kind of crime or any other issues to come and grab the headline and create any fallout. We want things to remain calm over the period so that we don't deter the prospects.”

GRIZZLE ROUMEL… it [winter season]looks good and we are hopeful(Photo: Anthony Lewis)
BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer West writer NEGRIL, Westmoreland

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