US$500-m tourism investment

“This investment in new rooms is larger than any other in the history of the industry,” McNeill told senior journalists at his New Kingston office yesterday.

The 2,694 rooms are split between new properties and expansion on existing hotels in Negril, Montego Bay, Trelawny, St Ann, and Kingston.

McNeill said they will account for approximately 7,000 jobs in the construction phase, and between 4,000 and 5,000 permanent positions when the hotels are fully operational.

He attributed the investments to strong partnerships created over the past three years, particularly in the United States, and with the world’s largest tour operator, TUI Group.

“What you have happening is people doing business in Jamaica being successful and investing in a real way,” McNeill said.

Jamaica Tourist Board Chairman Dennis Morrison said the investments were also influenced by amendments to the Hotel Incentives Act which now grant tax breaks to hoteliers for refurbishing.

“The tax system that has been put in place meets a demand that has been made for many years of government,” Morrison said.

Previously, the Act provided a 10-year relief from general consumption tax, income tax, and import duty to new hotels, existing hotels adding a minimum of 10 rooms or 30 per cent of the existing number of rooms (whichever is greater), and existing hotels that have done or intend to do substantial structural alteration.

In addition, approved convention hotels with 350 or more bedrooms are entitled to income tax and import duty relief ranging from 11 to 15 years.

“The new regime allows the operator to renew and refresh his property every three or five years, and they will tell you that is the biggest thing, because what you have done is take the taxes off their operating expenses,” Morrison said.

McNeill pointed out that another 2,500 rooms are to be built by Chinese investors, and the planned casino resort on the North Coast will add more rooms to the product.

“What you’re seeing is a massive wave,” he said.

Just over a decade ago, Spanish investors figured prominently on a list of 15 tourism projects which, at the time, was the largest combined investment in the sector with capital of US$400 million and employment capacity of 4,700 jobs.


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