BED AND BREAK­FASTS STAKE CLAIM IN GROWTH OF HO­TEL IN­DUS­TRY

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS -

WHEN MIRRIAM Brown He­wan de­cided to en­ter the tourism in­dus­try, she had many de­trac­tors. “A lot of my en­tre­pre­neur friends did not see it as an area of growth. They as­sumed that be­cause of our high crime rate, over time, the num­ber of vis­i­tors to the is­land would be greatly re­duced. On the con­trary, I dis­agree,” she said.

He­wan is a prop­erty man­ager with four guest houses in her port­fo­lio. They are lo­cated in the up­scale com­mu­nity of Rich­mond in St Ann and are rented to vis­i­tors from over­seas and lo­cals who wish to visit the north coast. As a for­mer gas sta­tion and con­ve­nience store owner, she un­der­stands the im­por­tance of good cus­tomer ser­vice in guest re­ten­tion.

“The guest houses, es­pe­cially Bella Vista and Seashell Villa, are ex­tremely pop­u­lar, sim­ply be­cause I in­sist on high-qual­ity cus­tomer ser­vice. The guests are treated like roy­alty and are made to see Ja­maica as a par­adise, so even if they had neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions be­fore, all of that fades away when they move in. I let them know that I care about their va­ca­tion as much as they do and that I want them to have a good time.”

Her duty as prop­erty man­ager in­cludes check­ing guests in and out of the prop­er­ties, en­sur­ing that the houses are kept clean and pro­vid­ing other as­sis­tance to the vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing trans­porta­tion and a chef, if they re­quest one.

CON­STANT BOOK­INGS

“The guest houses are al­ways be­ing booked be­cause we ad­ver­tise on­line and al­low guests to make book­ings via our web­site or through airbnb.com. Be­cause we take such good care of our guests, we have a large num­ber of re­turnees, along with many new per­sons who have heard of the pro­fi­cient ser­vice we of­fer.”

She be­lieves that there is an in­crease in vis­i­tors to the is­land and that Ja­maicans who The pool at one of the guest houses in Mirriam Brown He­wan’s port­fo­lio.

are able to, should try and get in­volved in the in­dus­try in some way.

“It is a pros­per­ous in­dus­try; you will be suc­cess­ful, es­pe­cially if you can af­ford to ex­pand. I plan to ac­quire a few more prop­er­ties next year.”

When asked if her busi­ness is hin­dered by the all-in­clu­sive re­sorts on the north coast, He­wan smiled.

“Not at all, in my ex­pe­ri­ence many tourists pre­fer the smaller prop­er­ties where they are less re­stricted. They do not feel as if they are just an­other num­ber here.”

Ron­ald McPher­son, a 72-year-old who has owned a bed and break­fast at 17 Brook Close in Brook Green, Ocho Rios, since 1989, dis­agrees.

“This is my main source of in­come, so it is a fight with the all-in­clu­sive ho­tels. When I first started in the ’80s, there were not that many of them and I reg­is­tered a higher num­ber of guests. It is not a com­plete hin­drance though, be­cause I have a lot of re­turnees, many of whom are al­ready

fa­mil­iar with Ja­maica and have no qualms about get­ting around on their own.”

McPher­son ex­plained that his se­cret to guest re­ten­tion is to al­ways en­sure that the guests have a good time so that they will tell their friends. He does not have a web­site, but his bed and break­fast, which has eight rooms, is rarely with­out vis­i­tors.

RECRE­ATIONAL AREA ON CARDS

“Clean­ing and laun­dry is done for them, and I am try­ing to cre­ate a recre­ational area on top of my house so they can drink and re­lax. Hope­fully, that will help to in­crease the num­ber of vis­i­tors, but what I make so far is enough to sus­tain my life­style.”

Deb­o­rah and Trevor Mitchell, op­er­a­tors of the Lit­tle Shaw Park Guest House, in­sist that they are suc­cess­ful be­cause they ded­i­cate all their time to the busi­ness. Hav­ing owned their guest house for 39 years, Deb­o­rah in­sists that it is a full-time job and that she has to be there 24 hours a day in case the door­bell or the phone rings. Mirriam Brown He­wan.

“If you can’t stay at home, you can’t do this busi­ness,” she said.

The prop­erty has a to­tal of 20 rooms and apart­ments, and the cou­ple em­ploys three full-time staff – a house­man, a house­keeper and a gar­dener.

Ac­cord­ing to Deb­o­rah, her daily ac­tiv­i­ties in­volve mak­ing sure the rooms are kept clean and en­sur­ing that they do not over­book.

The cou­ple noted that ad­ver­tis­ing on their web­site and word of mouth are how they keep get­ting guests, but said the Ja­maica Tourist Board needs to play a big­ger role for small ho­tel own­ers.

“The Tourist Board needs to be as ac­tive as it used to be. They used to have of­fices, but many have closed down, and I don’t know why. This is im­por­tant be­cause of lot of the guests who are look­ing for in­ex­pen­sive ac­com­mo­da­tion like ours like to go there,” said Deb­o­rah.

Nev­er­the­less, she said that she is happy with the in­dus­try and her busi­ness.

“We en­sure that we prop­erly com­mu­ni­cate with the guests and try to keep them as happy and com­fort­able as pos­si­ble so they will visit again.”

Lit­tle Shaw Park Guest House looks invit­ing.

This bed and break­fast has been in op­er­a­tion in Brook Green, Ocho Rios, since 1989.

PHOTOS BY SASHAKAY FAIR­CLOUGH

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