ENCOURAGED BY early signs, a key player in one of the world’s largest hotel brands has expressed interest in expanding its investment in Jamaica.
Juan Carlos Fernandez-Friera, vice president, marketing, Ocean by H10 Hotels, said his Spain-based group, which includes 65 hotels worldwide, is “very happy to be here in Jamaica” and will be building additional hotels. , if the business takes off.
Already, Ocean by H10 Hotels has two resorts operating side-by-side and connected on the same property at Coral Spring Gardens in Trelawny – Ocean Coral Spring and Ocean Eden Bay.
“We are relatively new in the country. The Spanish hotel chain is very large, with 65 hotels worldwide, but this is our first experience in Jamaica, our biggest investment so far, and if all goes well, we will continue to invest in the country” , Fernandez-Friera said in a statement. Gleaner maintenance.
Ocean Coral Springs, a family-friendly resort, opened in December 2019 and Ocean Eden Bay opened just three months ago, in November 2021. The combined properties have 957 rooms and have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 at startup, forcing Ocean Coral Springs to close.
Despite this, Fernandez-Friera, from Spain, said they were undeterred.
A VERY DISTINCTIVE PRODUCT
“When we first opened Ocean Coral Springs the first three months before the pandemic, we saw how well we could sell our product. As you can see, we have quite a distinctive product, differentiated from others, and it is successful,” he remarked.
Then they faced an equally frustrating situation when the other half of the business, the adults-only Ocean Eden Bay, opened its doors.
“We had a very difficult month of January. The Omicron variant completely halted activity, forcing all markets to cancel reservations and it was difficult until last week,” Fernandez-Friera explained. “Now, from February, Canada is regaining confidence, the US market is also coming back and the Europeans…the biggest market.
“In general, people around the world are tired of the pandemic. They have fewer restrictions in the countries and our most important markets and we can feel an improvement and a better recovery,” he continued, predicting that “we are also going to have a very nice summer activity”.
This, he explained, is based on an increase in occupancy, which is now 60%, and a change in trend.
“We feel like we made the right decision to come to Jamaica. Despite the pandemic, we see the potential. People see that we have a unique product and the potential is there so we can expect business and we’re really, really happy to be in Jamaica…the culture, the music, the people,” said said Fernandez-Friera. “Coming from a Spanish-speaking company, it is sometimes difficult to communicate in another language, but we managed to manage good communication locally. It is the ideal solution, we feel at home and we integrated very quickly.
Much of that integration has been facilitated with the support of locals, who have kept the business going by vacationing in hotels during the pandemic, when travel restrictions impacted foreign support.
It gave Fernandez-Friera a real first-hand Jamaican experience.
“Jamaican culture, the brand, even your flag has great colors, it’s a great selling point for our business,” he said. “It brings us value, differentiation from other destinations where we are, it’s like new and it has a lot of potential. In the European market, we can bring more Europeans to the island because we’re promoting it there…in Spain and the UK.
The hotelier further underlined the satisfaction of Ocean by H10 Hotels, saying, “we don’t regret it (Jamaican investment) and we will probably expand to the island in the future.”
“We still need to polish and polish the details. It’s not easy to be new on the island to open a hotel with almost 1,000 rooms in a natural area, creating new jobs. We have people who have never worked in the hospitality industry; we teach these people how to work,” he said. “It’s a big challenge but it also makes us proud, proud because the tourism industry is an industry that brings value to the communities, not only to the people who work here, but to the suppliers and the families of the workers.
“It’s really, really a great industry. Everyone loves tourism, everyone loves hotels, it’s good to grow up like that. And we are proud to contribute to this development,” said Fernandez-Friera.