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RUNAWAY BAY, St Ann; July 23, 2015: Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill has welcomed Jewel Runaway Bay’s $570 million Lagoon Water Park as a great addition to the tourism product.
While maintaining that “we have tremendous attractions in Jamaica,” Dr. McNeill has pointed to the importance of investment that is taking place across the length and breadth of the island and creating more opportunities for investors in attractions and the transport sector, ultimately allowing for more visitors to get out of their hotels and explore the country.
The Tourism and Entertainment Minister was speaking at the official launch of Jewel Lagoon Water Park recently. The 9,000 sq. ft. attraction is one of the largest water parks in the region and provides excitement for guests of all ages. Since going into operation in March, it has been used by over 45,000 guests.
The ribbon cutting had guests waiting anxiously for a special guest to emerge from the huge water slide to create a big splash; there was quite a surprise when Miss Jamaica World, Laurie-Ann Chin, appropriately clad in bathing suit, emerged like a mermaid to join in the ceremony.
Dr. McNeill lauded Sagicor, owners of the Jewel brand of hotels, and the many other investors that have been showing confidence in the local tourism industry.
“What has been happening over the last three years is that Jamaica has been performing well in tourism; our occupancies are up, as well as our room rates and for the investor in the industry this is a good thing as their profits are up. What we’re seeing is investment in the industry with a lot of that going into buying and refurbishing existing plants so there has been a transformation of the sector over the last three years,” he added.
With the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment recording some $54 billion worth of investment in the past few years, Dr. McNeill was pleased that several properties have been expanded and upgraded to a brand new level. Additionally, new investment including the creation of the Jewel Lagoon Water Park is taking place and by year-end construction will start on an additional 1,600 hotel rooms.
Minister McNeill expressed the view that “the investment climate in Jamaica now is the best it has ever been” and “the future is looking good.”
That view is shared by President and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica, Richard Byles who said “our experience in tourism, I must say, has been very good; we’re very satisfied with it. We like it because it is part of the global market and that means it can grow, we can grow and we’ve experienced that. Every year we’ve had better occupancies, better rates and that’s wonderful.”
Mr. Byles lamented, “I hear so many Jamaican businessmen bemoaning the fact that they can’t get growth, well I tell you if you are in the tourism business you can get the growth.”
He said his company also liked tourism “because it creates such a great linkage in the economy” and citing Red Stripe as an example, Mr. Byles said, “I encourage Jamaican corporations, Jamaican individuals to look seriously at the business of investing in tourism, More Jamaicans need to own and be part of the tourism business, not just work for it but own it also.”
He said the Lagoon Water Park fulfilled a commitment made in 2014 when the Sagicor X Fund raised $1.5 billion from an initial public offer.