MONTEGO BAY, St James - While welcoming news that Jamaica's tourism sector is set to benefit from several large developments, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Robin Russell is stressing the important role smaller properties still have to play.
"We're seeing the new trends where people want to experience more, people are looking for just a diverse experience, being immersed in the culture of Jamaica, and these small properties, that's exactly what they give the people," he told the Jamaica Observer West.
"When you stay in the small properties and the owner of that property takes you to church and take you down to Charles Gordon Market, and tasting the fruit right out of the basket, that's what tourism is about," he added enthusiastically.
Jamaica is set to welcome the RCD Group's 451-room UNICO Montego Bay and Hard Rock hotels. Other major projects, a combination of new builds or renovations, include Princess Resorts, Royalton Bahia Principe, Grand Palladium, and RIU. These are expected to add a total of about 6,000 rooms to the current stock, providing accommodation opportunities as Jamaica seeks to lure more visitors to the island.
While not discounting the importance of larger hotels, Russell was keen to point out that there are some things larger properties simply cannot do as well as smaller ones.
"You go to these big properties, and, yes, they're lovely, they're shiny, they're pretty, they offer everything. But when you come to Jamaica and you go on the Hip Strip or you go to the restaurants and you eating a local curry goat and you go to different places, that's what Jamaica is all about," he said.
Russell is general manager of the 93-room all-inclusive Deja Resort located on Montego Bay's Hip Strip.
Small properties, between five and 50 rooms, he insisted, represent the core of the hotel business.
"When you stay at a small property you tend to have a better connection with Jamaica and Jamaicans, and we're seeing how popular they are," he remarked. "Social media is driving that process; we're seeing people wanting to take pictures at different locations, doing different things, not just sitting at a pool drinking piÃ±a coladas."