PATRIOTIC IN APPROACH

Jamaica 2019 | TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | INTERVIEW

Despite ambitious regional expansion plans, the group's biggest opportunities are right in Jamaica.

Ian Dear
BIOGRAPHY
Ian Dear is a Jamaican-born businessman with more than 25 years experience in Caribbean tourism and real estate development. He is the founder and current chairman and CEO of Margaritaville Caribbean Group (MCG). The brand boasts 25 brands across 43 locations, employs 1,300 Jamaicans, and provides significant economic impact across the island. Other MCG locations can be found on Grand Cayman, Grand Turk, and St. Thomas. He is chairman of the board of the Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo.), a board member of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, and a former member of the Young Presidents Organization.

How has 2018 been for the group?

2018 was a tremendous year for the group with many new and exciting developments. A key accomplishment was the rollout of Starbucks in Jamaica, as part of a joint venture with Adam Stewart of Sandals. We won the franchise in late 2016 and started the rollout in 2017. It has been extremely gratifying because Starbucks is a great brand in its own right, but most importantly we are able to use its brand power as a vehicle to boost Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee. Another exciting venture for the group has been the opening of Coral Cliff Gaming & Entertainment in Montego Bay. The 55,000sqft venue provides a family-focused arcade, live entertainment, full restaurant, and state-of-the-art casino floor. We opened in mid-July and host 3,000-4,000 customers every day. Developments in the country have encouraged us to continue to invest. Over the last three and a half years, we have invested approximately USD35 million in various programs and opportunities. I am confident we are in the right place, and heading in the right direction.

How has your plan to expand your portfolio of customers and potential partners in Jamaica evolved?

We are actively busy with projects both in Jamaica and regionally and always open to new opportunities. In addition to Jamaica we operate in St. Thomas, USVI, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, and the Dominican Republic. The latter of the three are currently undergoing business expansions and development. However, we believe the biggest opportunities are right here in our own country. The all-inclusive expansion in tourism has resulted in a significant increase in tourists to Jamaica, and there is a massive opportunity to encourage guests to experience Jamaica outside of their resort. There are a number of investment opportunities underway to achieve this, and the government also has a responsibility to create the right environment in the public space to entice people to come out of their hotels.

What can you tell us about the reopening of Coral Cliff as the only one of its kind in Montego Bay?

Coral Cliff is an integral part of Montego Bay's entertainment landscape. It offers visitors and Jamaicans alike a chance to experience world-class entertainment. Also, tourists will have authentic interactions with locals outside of the resort environment and can experience the beauty of Jamaica's music, food, culture, and people all within a single, family-friendly venue.

What have been the main highlights in terms of operations and partners?

The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission has been an integral part of establishing our gaming operations, and we are also grateful for the support we received from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). Coral Cliff's core clientele is predominantly Jamaican, though our vision is to create a facility that brings Jamaicans and tourists together in a one-of-a-kind experience not available in resorts. This integrated concept is the start of something exciting for the tourism product. Most importantly, the heart of Coral Cliff is our team; we could not have brought this product to market without them.

How Coral Cliff is contributing to the renewal of the Hip Strip in Montego Bay?

Coral Cliff brings a new energy and vibrancy to Montego Bay's most iconic street. The venue is world class; it is the only place in the city where guests can experience live music every night in a safe, state-of-the-art facility. Montego Bay was in need of a venue that families could enjoy together, and Zeppelin's Fun Factory, our street level, family arcade has seen tremendous support since our August opening. Coral Cliff, which will begin 24-hour operations in February, expands the nightlife offerings. Another important aspect is the addition of casino gaming on Hip Strip. We have given people more reasons to come out of their resorts and experience the real Jamaica.

What is the company's commitment to developing the industry and the overall economy?

We are a company that is nationalistic in its approach; we are extremely proud of Jamaica and what we stand for. Our objective is to be responsible corporate community citizens. We believe we have a responsibility to support the communities in which we operate, push for the development of Jamaica's infrastructure and contribute in various forms using our abilities.