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No surprise that the reopening of the Riu Ocho Rios (735 rooms), Ocean by H10’s Ocean Coral Spring (opening soon with 500 of 1,000) rooms, and Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ upcoming project (3,000 rooms) figured prominently in Jamaican Tourist Board Director Donovan White’s remarks last week at the annual Jamaican Products Exchange. What did surprise me at JAPEX was that of the four hotels that invested enough time and money to address the media, three were EP properties and only one was an all-inclusive.

Junior Suite at the Excellence Oyster Bay. (Photo credit: Ed Wetschler.)

That outlier was Excellence Oyster Bay, where I stayed earlier this year. So rather than run through a replay of the JAPEX presentation, let me direct you to the on-site review based on my experiences at Oyster Bay.

The three EP properties that held press conferences—mainly for the trade media—included Half Moon, which is finishing up a $75 million program of upgrades. The upgrades include a new great house, described by Half Moon chair Guy Steuart as “a new gravitational center of the resort,” seven new restaurants, improvements to the spa, the grooming of a swath of beach that had not been used much, and new cottages along that beach whose accommodations are more contemporary than you’d expect at this 65-year-old classic. You’ll read more about Half Moon in an upcoming issue of Recommend.

Geejam’s fitness center. (Photo courtesy of Geejam.)

Music producer and co-owner Jon Baker of the Geejam Hotel, a Port Antonio boutique connecdting the mountains and the sea, announced that this hideaway is reopening with 12 new rooms called the Marumba Studios. In general, Geejam is for travelers who crave authentic experiences, from the scenery to the cuisine and music and arts events. World-class service, too. Also, Baker promised that a new road, which will be complete in two years, will cut drive time from Kingston to an hour and 20 minutes, “so the area will change—[but] for the better,” because it will retain its pristine Jamaican vibe.

The fourth property whose management addressed the trade media was the new AC Marriott, in Kingston. This 219-room lifestyle hotel, a partnership with Sandals, is unlike anything Kingston has ever had before, what with its 18,000 ft. of meeting space, haute modern design, art, fine cuisine, and social buzz that attracts the capital city’s young professionals. Currently the leisure/business and meetings breakdown is about 35/65 percent, but the leisure business is growing. As Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association president Omar Robinson has said in these pages, “Kingston is hot!” And regarding the surprising mix of hotels reaching out to the press at this JAPEX, I’ll quote Robinson again: “We also want to develop our EP product.”

For more on JAPEX, check out JAPEX 2019: Tourism Director Donovan White’s Update. And, check out “Travel Impressions’ New Partner Privileges Gives Your Clients Perks,” where some properties in Jamaica are included.

In addition, an exclusive interview with Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett will appear in the October issue of Recommend magazine.