Abraham Issa CBE, OJ (1905 - 1984) - The National Library of Jamaica

Abraham Issa CBE, OJ (1905 - 1984)

Abraham “Abe” Elias Issa (affectionately called Mr. Jamaica) was born on October 10, 1905 in Kingston. He was educated at the St. George’s College, Kingston and the Holy Cross College, Worcester, U.S.A. On his return to the island, he entered the family dry goods business – E. A. Issa and Bros. Abraham Issa is regarded as one of the pioneers of the Jamaican tourist industry, entering the industry when his family bought the Myrtle Bank Hotel on the Kingston Harbour in 1943.

His distinguished contribution to the Jamaican tourist industry was cemented when in 1949, he built the Tower Isle Hotel in St. Mary; which became the first resort hotel to be opened all year round. It was the decision to build Tower Isle (now Couples) on Jamaica’s north coast, which led to the development of the north coast and signaled the modernization of Jamaica’s tourism.

Subsequently, Abe Issa began appealing to the government to pay more attention to developing the tourism industry. In 1955, he became the first Chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTA) and held this post until 1962. He also served as president of the Caribbean Tourism Association, while simultaneously being the chairman and director of some thirty six (36) companies. As the Chairman of the JTA, Abe Issa worked earnestly to promote Jamaica as a year round destination. Throughout his life, he dedicated his time to modernizing Jamaica’s tourist sector with the establishment of hotels and investments in advertising. Abe Issa had become to be known worldwide as “Mr. Jamaica”.

Abe Issa also the lead the way in the development of the New Kingston business district. In 1959, with his involvement in the development of the Caymanas Park Racing Track, the old Knutsford Park Racing track was transformed into a central and active commercial area. He also established the first supermarket in Jamaica-Hi-Lo and the first shopping center-Tropical Plaza.

Mr. Issa received various awards for his work in tourism; in 1960 Queen Elizabeth II conferred on him the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 1980, he received the Order of Jamaica for his work in tourism. This was followed by another major Jamaican award, the Norman Manley Award for Excellence in 1984. Abraham Issa was also a member of the Senate and board member for many other companies.

Abraham Issa, “father of Jamaica’s modern tourism industry”, businessman, philanthropist and Jamaican extraordinaire died November 29, 1984.

Sources:

  1. B/N (Biographical Notes) files – National Library of Jamaica -, Issa, Abraham
  2. Martin, Emile. Reflections on Tourism. Montego Bay:  Unlimited Exposures Ltd, 1994.
  3. Miranda Jean. “Abe Issa; Father of Jamaican Tourism”, Skywritings, August 1985.
  4. “Tourism 1984”. 25th Anniversary Publication Norman Manley Award Foundation. 1994.