Jamaica tourism icon Heinz Simonitsch dies
The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) has saluted legendary hotelier Heinz Simonitsch, who died over the weekend.
The body cited him as one of the foremost pioneers of sustainable tourism development in the region.
“Professor Heinz was a pioneer in the industry in so many ways, leading by example, providing exemplary service, infusing ‘Caribbean’ and ‘Jamaican’ into his product offering, and expanding the boundaries of the industry well beyond that of his beloved Half Moon hotel with investments in the development of the people and communities surrounding his property,” recalled CHTA chief executive, Frank Comito, and CHTA, president, Patricia Affonso-Dass, in a joint statement.
The region’s tourism leaders expressed sorrow to learn of the passing of Simonitsch, a former Caribbean Hotelier of the Year, a CHTA past president and the first recipient of CHTA Icon of Hospitality honour for his incomparable contributions to the sector.
“For the decades he served our region he has been an ongoing inspiration to so many in the industry,” the CHTA officials stated, adding that he remained engaged with CHTA to the end, “reading and reviewing our information and just recently commending us for the work we were doing to address the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“His legacy and leadership will continue to live on in so many of us and in the very fibres of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, the Education Foundation as well as the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, which he helped to set up,” they said.
At a time when the growth of tourism and hospitality were raising questions about the effects of unbridled tourism development, Simonitsch led the way in showing hoteliers how their increased attention to the needs of local communities and to their shared environment could benefit both while enhancing the profitability of their properties.
His clear vision and business acuity enabled him to show the world how a luxury resort like Half Moon could attract and maintain high-end guests by displaying proactive environmental protection, implementing effective responses to the medical and educational needs of local communities, and boosting the employment and training of locals.
The hotelier secured global recognition of the ineradicable complementarity of luxury and sustainable economic, social and environmental development – with the property winning a host of titles at the World Travel Awards, including recognition as Caribbean’s Leading Conference Hotel.
Half Moon in Jamaica was Heinz Simonitsch’s crowning achievement
Simonitsch moved to Jamaica in 1963 where he leapt to prominence when he expanded the Half Moon Club into a leading 400-acre resort.
Prior to his iconic innovations in the region, he enjoyed a distinguished career in the Caribbean tourism industry, earning many distinctions since he began in 1953 as dining room captain at the Elbow Beach Surf Club in Bermuda before he became the managing director of Half Moon Golf, Tennis and Beach Club in 1965 until his retirement in 2002.
Before his passing, he split his time between Jamaica and his home country of Austria, where he owned the Grandhotel Lienz, which opened in April 2009.
The property was honoured with the title of World’s Leading Wellness Hotel by the World Travel Awards in 2019.
He received many accolades, including the Honorary Order of Distinction, Commander Class conferred by the governor general of Jamaica for outstanding contribution to tourism in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Simonitsch, here seen with World Travel Awards founder Graham Cooke, was honoured on a number of occasions by voters
Simonitsch was also honoured with the Golden Cross from the Austrian government for his long service as honorary consul general in Jamaica; the International Humanitarian Award from the American Friends of Jamaica for his commitment to helping the Jamaican population; the title of professor by the Austrian president for services and outstanding contribution to Austria; and the Blue Mountain award conferred for exceptional contributions to the continued growth and development of the Jamaican tourism industry.
His communication acumen and commitment to transparency were recognised by the Caribbean Media Exchange for Sustainable Tourism, which gave him its top award.
In addition to his work in tourism, Simonitsch played an active role in developing programs to assist the people of Jamaica.
He was the founder of SOS Children’s Village in Montego Bay and Kingston, and the founder of the Heinz Simonitsch School in Montego Bay.
“We join the legions of people who will remember Professor Heinz for his humanity, his generosity, his grace and his friendship,” noted Comito and Affonso-Dass.