It’s a family Affair
Updated: Aug 23
Named after the vessel that carried the co-founder’s father from Jamaica to Southampton in the 1950s, the Begoña Cliff Hotel is an independent boutique venue, nestled in the cliffs of Negril’s West End, looking out to the Caribbean Sea. It’s owners, husband-and-wife duo Errol Hewitt and Yvonne McKenley-Hewitt, share their journey to the recent launch.
CO-FUNDERS OF BEGOÑA CLIFF HOTEL
How did you both transition to becoming hoteliers? “It isn’t so much a transition as an ongoing evolution,” explains Errol, a TV news cameraman by trade. “We were in Negril looking for a venue for our wedding reception in 2018 and my cousin told me about a distant cousin who was selling her property. We went to look at it late one evening but we couldn’t see much. We returned the following day. It was a phenomenal sight: an existing guest house, on the cliff edge, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It was a no brainer. We agreed to buy it immediately.”
How has the pandemic affected your business plans? “I went to Jamaica for a funeral and the day after I arrived, Jamaica closed its borders to the UK. There were no flights for six months, so I took on the project management of the hotel,” says Errol.
Yvonne continues: “I started working life in PR, but prior to the pandemic I had ‘old-school’ marketing skills. In May 2020, I enrolled on an online course and learned new social media skills to help me start our Instagram account. I then went to Jamaica for six weeks to see Errol and visit the project and ended up there for six months, helping on the operational side of the hotel.”
You’ve centred the brand around guests who want to experience Jamaican culture, rather than a mega resort. Why is this important to you?
“We want our hotel to serve as a gateway to local culture. We’ve both stayed in large resorts where it’s easy to spend your whole time by the beach and not venture outside the hotel doors and think that experience represents the island. Staying with family and friends gave us the opportunity to see the sights that even we never knew existed.”
What are the key lessons you’ve learned?
“It helps to be in close proximity to your project. Whatever your budget is - double it. Find a local contractor/architect that you trust, and keep talking to them throughout the build. Get a mentor. Join the local chamber of commerce. Trust your gut. Be prepared to work hard.”
Yvonne adds: “Be VERY organised! Delegate the tasks that you can. Follow through on everything you say you will do and be prepared to change if things are not working.”
From now till early December 2021 we are beta testing our services and so we will be offering up to half-price stays at the hotel. In the longer term, our aim is to create a charitable foundation to support the local community.
INTERVIEW BY: ABENA TAYLOR-SMITH