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Carol Campbell-Williams, who plays the role of Jennifer Chambers, enjoys a bubble bath at the Royalton White Sands in Trelawny. - Contributed Photo
Beth Hyde, who plays the role of The Blackburns' villianess, Julia Blackburn, goes through her lines ahead of a scene at the great house. - Photo by Claudia Gardner
Executive producer of 'The Blackburns of Royal Palm Estate', Lennie Little-White, watches as a scene is shot at the Great House. 
The Royal Palm Estate Great House. 
Actress and production assistant Marguerite Tulloch is all smiles after a day's worth of work at the Great House, on the set of 'The Blackburns of Royal Palm Estate'. 
Make-up artist and hairstylist Michelle Clarke prepares Diane Clarke, who plays the role of executive chef Tiffany, for a scene at the Royal Palm Estate Great House recently. 
Jennifer Chambers (Carol Campbell-Williams) and Richard Blackburn (Adam Hyde) relax in the lazy River at the Royalton White Sands.

Royal Palm Estate - 20 years of promoting Jamaica's tourism product

Claudia Gardner, Hospitality Jamaica Writer

When CVM Television started airing the Royal Palm Estate soap opera 20 years ago, little did they know that the programme would have become a prime contributor to the international promotion of Jamaica's tourism product.

"CVM went on the air in 1993, and one year later, we put on the pilot and ran the series. The house that we shoot at is in Runaway Bay - Belair Great House," executive chairman, Mediamix, the show's producer, Lennie Little-White explained.

"The whole property, 3,000 acres that the Government took over in the time of land lease, and we happened to have access to the Great House. So, coming from Kingston, we used to drive down every weekend on a Friday, film Saturday and Sunday and sleep in the house with mattresses all over the place.

"And it was a kind of pioneering spirit, because CVM had just started - I was one of the original three people with CVM - and we made a commitment that we were going to do quality Jamaican programming. So there was a kind of enthusiasm where people didn't mind roughing it ... three people would sleep in a bed, et cetera, then we would pack up in everybody's car and drive back to Kingston," he added.

Little-White said as time progressed, the show's crew and cast of the programme (now The Blackburns of Royal Palm Estate), began to yearn for more sophisticated accommodations.

"People wanted to be treated a little bit better than roughing it out with mattresses on the floor. Luckily, Paul Issa, who is a part of the Couples (resort) family, had been in the show from year one and we approached his brother, Lee Issa ... we showed them how we could position the hotel and show off its attributes," he said.

"So when they agreed to that, we found a way to always have somebody (in their role) staying in the hotel. And so it started with Breezes, Couples, and the different Superclubs properties; then Sandals got involved. People in Kingston, like The Jamaica Pegasus and Terra Nova, were very supportive because we had, for example, ministers of Government having secret affairs - our own scandals - and they would check into these hotels," Little-White toldHospitality Jamaica.

Over the years, the programme has featured other hotels in Kingston, including The Knutsford Court, Morgan's Harbour, Courtleigh, Strawberry Hill, the former Wyndham Kingston, Hotel Four Seasons and the Liguanea Club. In Ocho Rios, the

former Jamaica Grande, Crane Ridge, Hermosa Cove, and in Montego Bay, the Iberostar Suites and Sunflower Villas, Gran Bahia Principe in Runaway Bay and the Royalton White Sands in Falmouth, Trelawny.

"We moved from hotel to hotel - the deal is, we come to the hotel for a week, so we write scenes for that particular hotel. After a week, we leave the property and go to the (great) house, but we still stay at the hotel. So we do a reconnaissance where we come and see the important things the hotel wants to show off - so if they want to show off their, their spa, or their mani and pedi, food or kids' village, we write it into the script, and show them," Little-White told Hospitality Jamaica.

Cut costs

He added that this was how they were able to cut down on costs, "We could set the scenes in a hotel room and we do a trade off with the hotel in terms of the exposure that they are going to get. The hotels lend themselves for romantic scenes, so we try not to show anything negative from within the hotel."

According to him, the cast is shot in the various restaurants and his production team is able to show the customer relations by how they are greeted at the front desk and in the dining room.

"So after a while, it caught fire, everybody wanted us to be at their property," he added.

Over the two decades that the programme has been running, Royal Palm Estate has focused on showcasing Jamaica in a positive light, incorporating the best of the island's tourism offerings and excluding anything that could be damaging to the product.

"I have said to people, we might show poor people, but we never show poverty; we don't show any zinc fences. So it has a kind of glamour ... we show Montego Bay airport with all the gloss and the fancy things and the Kingston airport; we show shopping ... we have gone to the best attractions such as Dunns River Falls, Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove," he said.

The live streaming of the show on the Internet, which has attracted an international audience, is a feat with which Little-White is particularly pleased. He said many of the hotel's house counts have increased due to Internet streaming.

"When people realised it was being streamed live around the world, many of them became far more positive, because the Jamaicans who watched the show in London and New York or wherever were now seeing," Little-White said.

The show he said, mushroomed, and now that it has a wider international audience.

"It has always been shown overseas, but on a selected basis - in Barbados and Trinidad ... because it is now on the Internet, the same time you see it here, you can watch it anywhere in the world, so it has a much wider audience," he stated.

Little-White said the success of the show has been incredible, "We have not had one hotel that does not want us to come back." 

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