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The entrance of the Pineapple Court Hotel on Pineapple Road, in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.

“The environment was clean and fresh. Staff were awesome, friendly and professional. We had a lot of fun. I will recommend Pineapple Court Hotel. Thanks for your extraordinary hospitality,” Lurline, a visitor to Jamaica, from the United States of America, wrote about the eight-year-old resort, Pineapple Court Hotel on the travel website, Booking.com.

Tracey Lettman-Duncan,(right) operator of the Pineapple Court Hotel in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, has a conversation with team member, Christine Miller.

The hotel, located on Pineapple Street in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, is operated by Tracey Lettman-Duncan, a manager with more than 30 years experience in the tourism sector. The 14-room property caters to locals; Americans, Canadians and Europeans, who are in the town for a few days; and returning residents, who are on vacation. 

Although it is a small hotel, Mrs Lettman-Duncan prides herself on offering a comfortable stay for guests. Therefore, Lurline’s review was the minimum standard which the hotelier sets for her property.

“When my guests are happy, they write back, or leave a review, expressing their appreciation,” she related. “They also tend to return; and refer other persons. They love our staff and our detail to cleanliness. In fact, about 70 per cent of my clientele are repeat businesses and referrals.”

The mother of two enjoys being a part of the tourism sector; and has worked at resorts between Ocho Rios and Negril, since graduating from university.

“I have always loved the industry, but the university I attended did not offer tourism, at that time. When I graduated, I applied for a job at a hotel in Ocho Rios and was accepted. But, I always wanted to operate my own hotel. In 2012, I learned that this property was up for lease; and I realised that I could not miss this opportunity; therefore, I took on the challenge,” she related.

Branching out on her own has been a fulfilling experience.  Her days are normally hectic : overseeing the day to day operation, supervising a staff of seven employees, checking occupancy and revenue levels, reservations and strategic planning with promotion, and upgrading  projects for the months ahead.

“Up until this year, we were doing well as annual growth was being realised. But, when COVID-19 arrived on our shores and the borders were closed, it hit us hard,” she pointed out. “We had many cancellations. But we were able to reopen in July, after the Government reopened the borders; and more of our local guests started requesting rooms.”

Despite the challenge, she has coped, based on the support she received from JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL) over the years, through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), which assists small and medium enterprises in the tourism sector.

“My relationship with JN Small Business Loans goes back to 2012. Through the  TEF programme, she was able to secure funding with JN Small Business Loan to reopen the doors and start operating.

 “Our relationship has been excellent,” she added. ““They have also provided support during this difficult time by offering payment options, including moratorium, which has been greatly appreciated.”

Mrs Thelma Yong, deputy general manager, JNSBL, explained that the JN Group member company has been working with the tourism sector, particularly during this difficult period.

“When the first COVID-19 case was identified locally, we knew it would also affect members of the tourism sector. Since then, we have provided support through moratoriums and other forms of assistance. The Pineapple Court Hotel is one of our many success stories in the sector; and we are confident that they will overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic,” Mrs Yong informed.

Mrs Lettman-Duncan currently markets her property via referrals, social media and online travel sites. Her busiest months are January to April and  during the summer. In the off months, she hosts weddings, graduations, and other functions, which are popular with Jamaicans.

“Our slow months are September and November; and from May to June, which are off-season. Those low periods are when we try to capitalise on events that may be popular, such as weddings. We try to do minor renovations as well,” she explained, pointing out that, “June and September are wedding months.”

Although COVID-19 has forced her to retool and rethink her projections, Mrs Lettman-Duncan is already planning her operations after COVID-19. She intends to market to guests who seek longer stays at affordable prices.

“Jamaicans have supported us, and we are extremely grateful. Therefore, I hope to develop a better relationship with our local guests. I also hope to get visitors who want longer stays. Some guests, Jamaicans who live in England, tend to stay for two or three weeks; and we hope to have more of those guests,” she related.

“My vision is that Pineapple Court Hotel will be the accommodation of choice for Ocho Rios as an option to the all-inclusives. Whether on business or for pleasure, visitors will stay here affordably and have breakfast but go out into the town for work, dining or tours and will use their funds that way.”  Affordability, overall staff service, and our commitment to always improve with take us through this COVID era and beyond,” she affirmed.

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