Updated: Jan 1
Treasure Beach hotel, villa owners see increase in local bookings during COVID-19
By Josimar Scott of the Jamaica Observer.
Hotel and villa owners in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, are counting their blessings as more Jamaicans venture to the area for short-term respite.
Located in the south of the breadbasket parish, Treasure Beach has the lowest density of rooms in Jamaica, at 30 rooms per acre. Still, like other tourist centres across Jamaica, Treasure Beach has not been spared the impact of the pandemic and the measures that the Jamaican Government and others around the world have implemented to stymie the spread of the novel coronavirus over the last 18 months. Nevertheless, the decline in overseas guests presented an opportunity for property owners to market their services to locals.
“We've doubled in turnover,” David Folb, owner of Lashings Beach Club, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
He explained that at the onset of the pandemic, when countries began closing their borders in April last year, he stopped taking reservations for Lashings' two locations — a hillside and a beachfront property — for a period of six weeks. However, he continued to oversee the hotel's restaurant and bar until the Government issued orders to limit gatherings.
A British expat, Folb converted what was once his private residence into the Lashings Beach Club almost a decade ago. Initially, he marketed the property to “wealthy” and “well-to-do” Britons who wanted to get away from the cold climes. Since then, he has added a penthouse suite, Tree-Top Bar, a pub and a bird conservancy to the property. At the time of the Business Observer's visit, there were ongoing renovations.
“One thing that we were always very keen on, long before the pandemic [is that] we wanted more Jamaican people here. There's nothing that English people love more than going to a place that has locals — although there are a lot of cultural differences,” Folb shared.
But with the UK Government flip-flopping on its policy of non-essential travel within the last year, the hotelier has seen revenues from its main market dwindle.
“The British trade is non-existent. We virtually don't have any British trade. It's starting to come back,” he said, pointing to measures that the UK Government will undertake to simplify its “traffic light” list and facilitate travel to the island.
In the meantime, Lashings has seen Jamaicans replacing overseas tourists. Folb, who monitors reservations with his Jamaican wife as co-owner, attributes this uptake to Jamaicans resorting to Treasure Beach instead of their usual jaunts to North America and the UK for vacation.
Lashings has been delivering over 100 meals per night, even during lockdowns, according to Folb. He said further that, at a minimum, the restaurant may deliver 200 meals per week, catering to older people and guests at properties which don't offer food-preparation services.