Although Jamaican officials have expressed concern over the closure of the Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall in Montego Bay on May 20, Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill assured stakeholders and industry partners that the "foundation of our tourism sector remains firm, and our industry continues to grow."

He said that investment prospects are promising, new brands have come on board and others are expanding.

As examples, McNeill cited Riu Hotels & Resorts, which is building the 238-room Riu Palace Jamaica, opening in December next to the Riu Montego Bay.

Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts rebranded the former Breezes Negril as the Grand Lido Negril Resort & Spa and plans a renovation this summer; Karisma Hotels & Resorts opened the all-inclusive Seashore Bay Beach Resort in Negril (the former Beaches Sandy Bay); and insurance company Sagicor Life Jamaica has taken over its third property to be operated under the Jewel flag and managed by Aimbridge Hospitality.

McNeill praised Ritz-Carlton, which had managed the 427-room resort since its opening in 2000, as a valuable tourism partner that had helped boost the island's image as a destination.

The hotel is owned by Jamaica's Urban Development Corp. and the Rollins family. It has been on the block for the last nine years.

U.S.-based Playa Hotels & Resorts is in negotiations to acquire the hotel. Earlier reports that the company had acquired the property were inaccurate.

"The sale is not complete," Bruce Wardinski, Playa's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "Because of the nature of the negotiations, we cannot comment further.

"If and when the sale is complete, we will issue additional information regarding future plans for the resort," Wardinski said.

The company owns and operates 17 all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, under the Barcelo Hotels & Resorts flag as well as AMResorts' Secrets and Dreams brands.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.

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