TORONTO — Canadians are increasingly discovering the pleasures of one of the few boutique hotels in Ocho Rios.
“The Toronto and Canadian market has traditionally not been strong for us, either the exchange rate or they didn’t know about us, but in the last two to three years, Toronto has caught on fire for us,” explained Eric Morrow, managing director of the Jamaica Inn, a 54-room property, that is a frequent recipient of glowing reviews from guests and glossy travel magazines alike.
During a media lunch Tuesday, Morrow credited the hard work of Lillian Day, president of Resort to the Best (which represents 10 resorts worldwide including the Jamaica Inn) for getting the word out.
“We always call the travel agent to see if the client enjoyed the stay and they can then tell their (other) clients, so that makes a difference,” explained Day.
Morrow along with the inn’s general manager Kyle Mais described the qualities that make the property special and set it apart from the all-inclusive hotels that predominate in Ocho Rios.
Chief among them is the fact that it’s family owned and operated – “a rare bird in today’s marketplace,” said Morrow, who now runs the inn his father bought in 1958. “My wife is Jamaican and our children were brought up in Jamaica.” Mais, meanwhile explained his ties to the island date back to his grandfather who arrived in Jamaica at the turn of the last century and worked at modernizing the Appleton Rum distillery.
Morrow explained the suites and cottages, which occupy eight acres, all have a “stunning view” of the Caribbean Sea and some have their own private pools. Guests enjoy it because it’s quieter. There are no TVs, radios or clocks, though there is complimentary WiFi in every room, and the 700-foot-long sandy beach is private so guests won’t be bothered by souvenir sellers.
Water sports (including kayaking and sunfish sailing) are complimentary as are hors d’oeuvres served each evening. Among the tours and excursions on offer is one where guests take the inn’s water taxi to Dunn’s River Falls before it opens, beating the rush when all the cruise ship passengers arrive.
“We try to be the furthest thing from an all-inclusive,” said Mais. There are various meal plan options at the inn or guests may choose a dine around program with four hand-picked restaurants outside the property including an Indian eatery and a Jamaican/Italian fusion restaurant.
“We greet every guest personally when they arrive and when they leave and chat with them while they’re here,” said Morrow, adding that the inn’s many long serving employees are another special feature.
Unlike hotels in Europe he’s visited where employees come from other countries, Morrow said all his staff are Jamaican. “About 70% of the staff can walk home from the inn, so it makes for a different vibe. So when we say ‘welcome home’ we say ‘welcome home to our home’.”
Guests can enjoy wildlife too. Morrow relayed a story of a wedding at the resort, where the bride, on learning there were 150 turtle hatchlings heading out to sea from the inn’s beach, delayed the ceremony to see the spectacle telling guests: “I waited this long to get married it can wait one hour.”
Turtles aren’t the only attraction. Another guest, Morrow explained, was a Canadian ornithologist, who was surprised to count as many as 30 different bird species on the property.
The average age of guests is about mid 40s, though an active presence on social media is bringing in a younger crowd. Families with children over 12 are also welcome.
We’ve seen people who’ve gone to all-inclusives then they come out the other end to find us and say it’s time for us to be here,” said Morrow, noting the inn receives a high number of repeat visitors.
The inn has summer savings from May 1, 2015 to September 30, 2015 that includes 4 nights for the price of 3; 7 nights for the price of 5; and 14 nights for the price of 10.