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Jamaica Inn escapes the AI format

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  •   05-14-2015  11:13 am

Jamaica Inn escapes the AI format

Going against the grain of the traditional all-inclusive resort model is paying off for the Jamaica Inn.

Managing director Eric Morrow and GM Kyle Mais were in Toronto recently, meeting with industry members and travel media to promote the property, which stands out from its neighbouring peers by offering a vastly different experience on its namesake island.

Located in Ocho Rios with only 54 oceanfront rooms (including villas and cabins), the Inn offers travellers an escape from normal life, best exemplified by both the cozy confines of the accommodations as well as policies prohibiting television, radios and other distractions (WiFi is provided, however, allowing guests who can’t be completely cut off from home or work to check back to reality).

“It’s our home and people feel that when they visit,” Morrow said. “We greet and say goodbye to every guest. People from around the world are coming here and they’re all looking for somewhere quiet to escape.”

Built in 1950, the property was acquired by Morrow’s father in 1958 and formed the centrepiece of a growing hotel empire with properties in the Caribbean and Europe. When it came time to sell those hotels, Morrow recalled that his father couldn’t let go of the property that started it all. Decades later, the Inn is still owned by the family, with several of the early staff – many living within walking distance of the property – still working there.

Providing an alternative to the sprawling all-inclusive resort properties located throughout the island and the Caribbean has resulted in a wide range of guests at the Jamaica Inn, Morrow said, with everyone from honeymooners to families and retirees booking rooms. Mais and Morrow said that the Inn is also seeing a recent surge in younger travellers who are seeking a different experience from the party atmosphere found at other resort properties.

More Canadians are visiting, Morrow said, which he attributed to increased promotion in Canada through Resort to the Best as well as word-of-mouth advertising through guests. While the majority of Canadian travellers are booking during the traditional winter sun season, the Inn sees many Canadians booking weddings and honeymoons during the summer months, he explained.

While meal and bar plans are offered, Morrow said that guests are encouraged to explore Jamaica beyond the Inn’s eight-acre grounds, through initiatives such as partnerships with four local off-site restaurants featured in the meal plan. Regular activities also take guests into the community, such as trips to food markets with the Inn’s chef, sightseeing with local guides or taking part in a rafting adventure. For nature lovers, Morrow said the property’s many gardens draw more than 30 species of birds, while sea turtles are a common sight every year, as the animals lay their eggs on the property’s private beach, disrupting the occasional wedding often to the delight of an understanding bride and groom.

“Our style of property is becoming more in demand,” Mais said, citing the property’s history and architecture. “It’s in fashion and folks are travelling more to experience a new culture or way of life. It’s a dying breed of hospitality.”

It all comes together to create a unique experience which Morrow and Mais said has resulted in multiple repeat bookings from happy travellers.

“The odd time I have to explain to a guest the no-TV policy,” Mais said. “I say ‘trust me, give it a chance,’ and that same guest will come back a day later and say ‘I get it.’”

PHOTO: Lillian Day, president, Resort to the Best; Eric Morrow, managing director, Jamaica Inn; Teressa Taylor, sales manager, Resort to the Best; Kyle Mais, general manager, Jamaica Inn.

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