Ritz-Carlton leaving Jamaica; 400 jobs in doubt

(Jamaica Observer) The jobs of 400 hotel workers are in doubt, following yesterday’s announcement by Ritz-Carlton that it will close its Montego Bay, St James resort at the end of the month.

Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company said it will cease management of the 427-room Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort in Rose Hall, St James on May 31, after 13 years in operation at the property.

“For over a decade it has been an honour to manage a hotel in Rose Hall, Jamaica. The numerous awards and recognition the resort has garnered over the years is a tribute to the genuine warmth, professionalism and dedication of our exceptional ladies and gentlemen,” said Tony Mira, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, in a press release early yesterday afternoon, announcing the brand’s exit.

ritzRose Hall Resort LP, the Delaware-based owner of the property, later confirmed “the mutually planned departure” of the Ritz-Carlton as hotel operator. The firm said it is “actively evaluating” its options in terms of future operations of the hotel.

Located on the ocean front in Rose Hall, the resort encompasses the hotel, the 18-hole White Witch Golf Course, five dining establishments, a full-service spa, more than 25,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and function space, and an outdoor pool and tennis centre. It is 15 minutes from Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

Last night, Ritz-Carlton refused to comment on its plans for its staff at the location, nor would it say what triggered its decision to cease management of the hotel property. Its Rose Hall hotel opened in 2000 and operated as the only Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jamaica.

Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) President Evelyn Smith said the departure of the brand from local shores was a significant loss to the industry.

“Ritz-Carlton was really an excellent addition to the offering in Jamaica. It is a high-quality, high-standard, renowned for service-excellence chain that operates internationally, and it brought in a different kind of clientele,” Smith told the Jamaica Observer last night.

“It is a great loss to the industry that it will no longer be here,” she declared.

The JHTA president said that although there has been some amount of speculation, no formal announcement has been made to the association as far as new operators of the hotel are concerned.

“It is prime real estate, so there are obviously entities that will at some point take it over, which most likely will be some other international chain,” Smith said.

Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill was said to be off the island and unable to comment up to press time. But Opposition spokesman on tourism Edmund Bartlett described the impending closure as a “body blow” to the sector, arguing that the Ritz- Carlton remained the only internationally acclaimed, high-end brand on the island.

The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce also expressed concerns over the job losses stemming from the impending closure of the hotel.

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