Residents welcome possible Dragon Bay reopening

June 30, 2016
A view from outside the Dragon Bay Hotel in Port Antonio, Portland
Gareth Davis Sr Marion Patterson is excited about the possible reopening of Dragon Bay Hotel in Portland.
The entrance to the shuttered Dragon Bay Hotel, in Port Antonio, Portland.

Portlanders have expressed optimism about the likely reopening of Dragon Bay Hotel by Sandals Group as they believe this could result in sustainable employment for dozens of residents.

This glimmer of hope expressed by residents comes in the wake of a pronouncement made earlier this week by Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for economic growth and job creation.

Vaz hinted that the expansion of the Ian Flemming Airport in the neighbouring parish of St Mary would result in the reopening of Dragon Bay Hotel by the Gordon 'Butch' Stewart-led Sandals Group.

"This could result in meaningful employment for many," said Nicole Condappa, a government worker.

"This could also mean that the spin-off and trickling down effect will be felt all around. Dragon Bay's property has huge potential and it's a picturesque beauty. No doubt this will be a step in the right direction as it relates to job creation. I believe that if the expansion of the airport will result in the reopening of Dragon Bay, then the end result will be a plus for Portlanders," she added.

additional employment

The acquisition of Dragon Bay by the Sandals Group more than 15 years ago was expected to generate additional employment for residents. However, back-to-back hurricanes over a 10-year period somewhat derailed the plans of its owners. The situation was reportedly further compounded by deplorable road conditions.

But with the completion of the Portland leg of the North Coast Highway from Ocho Rios, there are ongoing whispers from influential circles that Dragon Bay might really reopen its doors to the public is on the verge of becoming a reality, given the fact that the road network is now improved.

"It would be a welcome sight for many," said a resident, Barbara Williams.

"Still fresh in our minds are the former glory days of Dragon Bay when the hotel was in full flight. Business boomed back then, and it created meaningful employment to dozens of residents. I am happy to learn about this new development, and I believe that the powers that be should do what is necessary to make this happen," she added.

And probably the most sentimental of the lot is Marion Patterson, who still remembers all too well the stellar attraction and its operations, which was once the workplace of her uncle.

"I have been hoping and praying for this to happen," she said. "There are so many unemployed youths in the adjoining communities of Fairy Hill, Boston, Zion Hill, and Drapers who could gain employment at Dragon Bay. I am talking about youngsters who have attended the Heart Academy, graduated from high school, and even those willing to get into the tourism sector."

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