Communities must be recognised as stakeholders in hotel investments, says PM Holness

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Prime Minister, Andrew Holness (left), is greeted by Chief Executive Officer of RIU Hotels, Carmen Riu (third left), looking on is Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett. [ Photo: Adrian Walker]

By Garwin Davis

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – While Jamaica welcomes the many hotel investments, everything must be done to ensure that community members are recognised as stakeholders, says prime minister, Andrew Holness, speaking at the ceremony to break ground for the 700-room RIU Aquarelle in Coopers Pen, Falmouth, on April 20, said it should never be lost on investors that while residents might not be direct “shareholders”, they do have an integral role to play in the overall success of the project.

“We must ensure that the community is involved… that community rights are protected… and that the community can truly embrace the project,” the prime minister pointed out.

“We must [also] ensure that they do not see it as an imposition or part of an invasion. They (community) must see the project as part of their economy… as part of their socialisation and that [they] are [owners] of the project. While they might not be shareholders, you must acknowledge them as stakeholders,” he added.

Holness said he is comfortable that in the case of the RIU Hotel Group and their newest investment, great care was taken to ensure community participation and inclusion as it relates to planning.

He argued that it makes a lot of sense for stakeholders and shareholders to work in unison, noting that it paves the way for community development and economic stability.

“I happen to know that much work was done [here in Falmouth] to ensure that the community stakeholders… their interests… their rights… were protected before we reached to this stage. Because at the end of the day, the prosperity must be shared,” the prime minister said.

Holness said it was against this background that he wants to publicly commend the efforts of the ministry of tourism, the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Municipal Corporation and the RIU Group for working collectively to “reach to this point where we can be assured that all investments will be protected and that the investment will be environmentally and socially sustainable and that we will all share in the prosperity of [RIU’s seventh property in Jamaica]”.

In the meantime, Holness, in thanking the RIU Group, said Jamaica has become a much-sought-after and first-call destination, adding that the importance of the sector to the country’s economic recovery and growth could never be overstated.

Stressing that “it didn’t happen overnight”, the prime minister said that for the past six years the government has placed a lot of emphasis and focus on tourism and is very confident that, despite setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, it has put together a blueprint for success and which should see the sector continuing to play its role as a lead engine of economic growth.

“The industry has taken on increased significance because the truth is that the government has focused on the industry… the government has given leadership and direction… and emphasis,” Holness added.

“Tourism plays a critical role in the government’s road to prosperity for the people. We have always known that the industry is vulnerable and susceptible to unforeseen eventualities. That is why Jamaica has taken the lead in planning for any eventuality [to protect this very critical sector],” he said.

With six properties currently in operation in Jamaica, the RIU Aquarelle will be the first in Falmouth for the world-class resort chain. Of note, also, is that this will be RIU’s 21st year of operation on the island.

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