LONG held in high regard by global lovers of luxury, Round Hill Hotel & Villas is now firmly on the radar of local Jamaicans. The stunning property, nestled on a peninsula just inside the border of Hanover on the way from St James, caught the eye of Jamaicans unable to travel during the pandemic. More than a year after airports reopened, they’re still enjoying the understated elegance that defines the 110-acre property. It’s one of the places to stay this summer… and beyond.
“I’m extra excited about how well we get accepted by the Jamaican traveller. I was a little nervous in the beginning but then it just blew me away how much they love Round Hill for the same things that our international visitors love about us,” Managing Director Josef Forstmayr tells Jamaica Observer’s LetsTravelCaribbean.com.
“We found, especially during COVID, we were able to get a lot more Jamaican visitors than ever before. We’ve always had a certain amount but [during the pandemic we had] more. They couldn’t travel so they had to go somewhere,” adds Forstmayr. “A lot of them found us and it was really a very rewarding experience both for them and us… My staff were so appreciative because they now realise that we have a very sophisticated Jamaican audience that can go anywhere, can do anything but they also love what we have to offer.”
Visitors may choose to stay at the 36-room hotel or at one of the 27 villas on property. There are 100 rooms available to villa guests.
First-timers typically get their toes wet by staying in one of the hotel’s Pineapple Rooms. But once they return and book a villa, they never look back. Demand remains robust for both hotel rooms and villas, and post-pandemic there has been a noticeable upward trend in the length of time guests stay on property. What used to be four-to-six-day villa stays have now become five to eight nights for American guests and seven to 21 nights for travellers in the UK market.
In addition to competing with overseas guests who are staying longer, locals will have to factor in the one month — September 6 to October 6 — that the property is closed each year for a thorough cleaning and sprucing up.
The good news is that, post-pandemic, Round Hill reopened its doors with a bang. It presented the concept of complete villas, creating three categories — Classic, Signature and Estate — plus one-bedroom suites that have their own private pools.
“Before, you were able to rent a villa suite and then you would share that villa with another suite that may be further away from you, but you share the swimming pool. That was the concept from day one when John Pringle founded it. But because of COVID, that had to go out the window, because now we could not put guests together anymore,” Forstmayr explains.
“It was a new way of selling ourselves and it has really worked very well. It has shown us that we certainly play in the same league as some of the top villa rental businesses in Jamaica,” he says.
The newly created categories are complemented by a 10-station Fit-Trail outdoor exercise system. Constructed from organic wood, they are installed along the property’s popular jogging path so guests who do not wish to use the well-equipped gym can work out while outdoors.
More importantly, Round Hill improved service by having staff complete refresher courses. That ensures that they provide the ultimate experience in luxury, making a 20 to 30 per cent increase in rates easier to accept. Round Hill’s prices, long lower than villas in some parts of the Caribbean, are now more in line with regional rates, says Forstmayr.
There is a 30 per cent discount for locals.
For Jamaicans who have never experienced the 69-year-old Round Hill, Forstmayr describes it as being akin to spending the weekend with “a nice aunt on the north coast”. The typical guest knows beautiful things, appreciates luxury, but also expects a certain level of comfort, he says.
“We don’t like to dazzle you with gimmicks… but we want to give you beautiful service, great Jamaican food or wonderful steaks, and all these things that you want to have… but you can’t have anymore no matter how much money you have because the environment you live in just doesn’t allow for that. That’s the beauty of Round Hill. We are sitting on a peninsula; we are surrounded by water, literally, where we don’t have to have huge gates and fences. The place is built around the gardens, the open air, the beautiful views, the great service and the warmth of the people so you feel totally comfortable,” he says.
Villas are privately owned but expertly managed by Forstmayr and his team. Each comes with a housekeeper/cook, two room attendants and a gardener whose personalities help shape the Round Hill experience.
“It’s not about the marble, and it’s not about the gilt, it’s all about beautifully finished details, but of a comfortable style. And it works,” says Forstmayr.