By: Donna-Marie Rowe
TRELAWNY, Jamica – By 2015, Jamaica’s offerings to tourists will boast an exclusive luxury resort with the construction of the multi-billion dollar Harmony Cove Resort in Trelawny.
On completion, the US$2 to US$4 billion resort will include several luxury hotels, with at least 2,000 rooms available, world class spa and fitness centre, an array of luxury residences, multiple championship golf courses, an equestrian centre, water park, a large scale marina with shops, restaurants, nightclubs and a wide range of amenities celebrating the best of Jamaica’s culture and natural beauty.
Harmony Cove is being developed by the Tavistock Group, a private investment company with a successful track record for creating world-class communities, including the renowned Isleworth and Lake Nona Golf and Country Clubs in Florida.
In 2006, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller signed a joint venture agreement between Harmonisation Limited and the Tavistock Group for the development of the resort, which is one of the largest and most ambitious projects to be undertaken by the Government.
Harmonisation Limited, the government entity created to partner with the Tavistock Group, comprises the Development Bank of Jamaica and the National Housing Trust.
Giving the background to the relationship between the Tavistock Group and Jamaica, Christopher Anand, Managing Director of the Tavistock Group charted the course from the e-mail he received from officials in Jamaica inviting him to the island, to his journey to Trelawny and the subsequent signing of the agreement.
“They sent me an e-mail,” he says, referring to Mrs. Audrey Marks, President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica and Tourism Minister, Aloun Assamba, “saying, ‘we want to change our tourist product and broaden it to the luxury market and we think that golf is the way to do that.'”
Mr. Anand was giving an update on the project at the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica Speaker’s Forum held on Wednesday, May 16 at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.
He recalls that he thought the e-mail was spam and did not consider it serious until a letter arrived from the Prime Minister inviting him to visit Jamaica.
“Buried in the intro(duction) is a very important point,” he says of his trip to Jamaica. He found that the Harmony Cove project was a “government-driven initiative that was a joint venture between two of the most important organizations here they decided they wanted to make a statement. They decided they wanted to go into the marketplace and transform the tourism industry and broaden it.”
“What you realize is that when you understand Jamaica’s past, Jamaica was really at the top of the super luxury market,” he reasons, and “I think the Government realized that over the last 10 or plus years it may have lost its perch up there and it (Jamaica) really dominated a more middle market experience.”
Through Harmonisation Limited, the government “quietly assembled 2,200 acres of property to bring a modern, all dominant super luxury experience for both residents and tourists,” Mr. Anand says and, “what was refreshing about that was the government had actually put some money on the table and that was the start of things to come.”
“We are incredibly choosy about doing business,” the Tavistock Partner says, as he outlined the factors that impressed him and influenced his decision to invest in Jamaica. He cites the expansion of the Sangster International Airport, improved water supply and road infrastructure as well as the multi-purpose stadium in Trelawny.
“One of the main things we did before I got on a plane here, I wanted to know where all the air routes were going, because for us air access is the number one factor in developing a luxury resort opportunity…because if you don’t have the ability for people to get there, what’s the point of building something?” he argues.
“For us the air routes were the most important, and then to see the investment in the airport the experience was actually awesome,” he says of Jamaica’s airport hub in Montego Bay.
“We then went into the market.to see where the most air routes came from and I looked at perhaps 200 airports in the Caribbean. Second to Puerto Rico, the number one airport for access, both in terms of the number of flights and the diversity of flights, was Montego Bay…that’s pretty important. For all of us in the tourism business on the north coast, that’s a big deal,” Mr. Anand notes.
He promises that Harmony Cove is going to be a collaboration of the world’s finest brands. “Here, we need to bring world class restaurants, world class retail, world class music, world class amenities, world class golf, world class marina, world class people,” he says.
“Our goal at Harmony Cove is to create an unforgettable luxury destination, a superb modern and internationally recognized place that integrates the best of Jamaica with state-of-the-art resort development that has worldwide appeal across multiple consumer segments,” he says of the Group’s intentions.
Defining the luxury market, which he says has many tiers, Mr. Anand explains that the resort will cater to the billionaire as well as provide a beautiful spa vacation in the mountains that will have a different price point and even a 2,500-room hotel that is geared not only to tourists, but also a convention centre, as he builds the business component to Harmony Cove. “Luxury will have different meanings at Harmony Cove,” he assures.
In the meantime, the Managing Partner mentioned the vibrancy of the Jamaican people, which he says is welcoming and optimistic. “It has a profound effect upon everybody that comes here. It is truly overwhelming and you mix that up with the rich heritage of music, art, food that whole cultural experience is so deep here in Jamaica and we are incredibly proud to be doing business here,” he tells the business leaders at the forum.
In 2006 at the signing of the agreement, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller indicated that the project was part of government’s strategic vision to “reposition Jamaica’s tourism industry and continue its development into the future.” She said the project was an example of the government’s efforts to develop rural areas with a view to stemming the urban drift.