Three guesses where this picture was taken: No, No and No. It’s the Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica where I stayed during a sustainable tourism conference. This particular view is the Rooftop Spa where magicians buff your skin with Blue Mountain coffee and brown sugar. You probably didn’t think Kingston looked like this, did you?
Much of it doesn’t. But Christopher Issa from a wealthy Jamaican business family turned a former shopping plaza on New Kingston’s St. Lucia Ave. into this hip small hotel, a Kingston first. (And trust me, it is a first, judging by my rounds of various 1970s-style lodgings on Knutsford Boulevard’s hotel row.) My conference friends who stayed elsewhere were exceedingly jealous. After hours of panel discussions, they were only too glad to kick back next to the pool on the hotel’s rooftop Sky Terrace with Appleton rum cocktails under the stars.
Spanish Court’s optimistic 2009 launch came at a time when the tourism economy was tanking worldwide and Kingston’s drug gang violence was at a peak. Unphased, Issa poured millions into the property and promoted 360 Kingston attractions either in or near the city. To those who say crime makes Kingston unsafe to visit, Issa said, “It would be a crime not to.”
As a cultural traveler, I agree.