Finding an update on hurricane-hit luxury hotels that are reopening this quarter is easy: You could just look at the October issue of Recommend magazine. But what about hotels on islands not slammed by Irma or Maria? During the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s State of the Industry Conference at Atlantis Paradise Island last week, tourism officials offered news about some of the luckier islands as well. What follows pertains mainly to land-based rather than cruise ship visits.
Antigua and Barbuda
Although Hurricane Irma floored Barbuda, it barely touched Antigua. In fact, said Minister of Tourism Henry Charles Fernandez, “it was a landmark year for us, with more than one million visitors…. And by next year, we anticipate even more traffic.” Increased airlift (e.g. new Delta roundtrips from JFK) helps, of course, and “the hurricane guarantee has worked well for us.” A water park is in the works, the first Women’s Cricket World Cup will come to Antigua in November, Sailing Week 2019 will include a new kiteboarding competition, and this month Antigua and Barbuda will launch a new website and a Pocket Antigua app.
- Antigua now offers luxury glamping, thanks to Wild Lotus Camp on (beautiful) Church Valley Beach.
- In the wake of the James Club’s $7 million renovations, The Premium and Club rooms, and the 2-BR villas have been refurbished, and there are new Ocean View Junior Suites.
- Elegant Hotels’ Hodges Bay Resort & Spa will open in January with 79 rooms, apartments, and villas.
- The Royalton Antigua, which debuts in February, will have two distinct sections: Resort and Diamond Club.
- In mid-2019 the couples-only Hammock Cove by Elite Island Resorts will open with 40 1BR villas that feature private plunge pools.
- The pipeline includes 15 approved properties that will double the island’s rooms stock from approximately 2,500 to 5,000 rooms by 2021. The hotels include a Marriott Autograph Collection property, Rosewood Half Moon Bay Antigua, a Best Western, and a Hilton under the luxury Waldorf-Astoria.
The Islands of the Bahamas made a lot of hot lists in 2018 “thanks to a boutique hotel boom, a Nassau Renaissance, new airlift;, and our darling swimming pigs,” said Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. YTD stopover arrivals are up dramatically; land-based visits from Canada, for example, have leapt 28 percent. “We are rebranding our destination with the launch of a new campaign—the first since 2013—to educate the public that Bahamas is not just Nassau-Paradise Island.” Moreover, said Jibrilu, “In November we’ll launch an official Bahamas app.” Look for an extensive social media campaign, too, and a lot of story-telling videos.
There’s substantial hotel news, too:
- Baha Mar is now fully open with three hotel brands, the Caribbean region’s largest casino (more than 1,000 slots alone) and largest convention center, Nassau’s first rooftop lounge, a 30,000-sq.-ft. spa, and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Royal Blue Golf Course.
- The 100-room One&Only Ocean Club has been rebranded and elevated as The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort.
- Atlantis Paradise Island recently renovated its Coral Towers and added new cultural and culinary attractions—and there are yet more improvements to come. For example, The Reef will complete a full renovation in December.
- The Pointe, a $250 million project that will include a 150-room branded hotel in downtown Nassau, is expected to be fully open in December 2020.
- December 2020 is also the anticipated completion date for the GoldWynn Condo-Hotel and Residences, now being built on Cable Beach.
- The government has purchased Grand Lucayan resort on Grand Bahama Island and is actively seeking a new owner and operator.
- The new Bahama House on Harbour Island is a chic, 11-suite property operated by a Colorado-based adventure company.
- Jack’s Bay on Eleuthera includes a TGR- (as in Tiger Woods) designed golf course, boutique hotel, and private club.
- The 12-room Lumina Point is a luxury eco-resort on Stocking Island off the coast of Great Exuma.
- The 35-room Peace and Plenty on Great Exuma has received a makeover and reopened under new ownership.
“The growth trends continue,” announced William “Billy” Griffith at a SOTIC. For example, in 2018 long-stay arrivals from the U.S. rose 6.8 percent through August. This trend in growth from the U.S. began in 2014, since which it has risen more than 40 percent; Canada is up 18 percent in the past five years. The fact that visitor expenditure was up 15.4 percent in the first quarter is yete another bullish sign for The Islands of the Bahamas. There’s new airlift from Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, and Westjet, too.
Hotel developments reinforce this growth story.
- Four important adults-only properties debuted in late 2017: The House (high-end boutique) and Treasure Beach, both part of the Elegant Hotels Group; Sandals Royal Barbados (it has 222 butler and concierge suites and is adding yet another 50 units, which will bring Sandals’ total room count on Barbados to about 470); and the 35-suite Fairmont Royal Pavilion, which relaunched after having shut down for a complete renovation.
- Sea Breeze Beach House, a family-friendly all-inclusive on the south coast that’s part of the small Ocean Hotels group, launched in April after a complete renovation featuring completely refurbished rooms, public amenities, and a new wing, Mahogany, with contemporary suites.
- Wyndham Grand is building a 450-room resort where Sam Lords Castle used to stand.
- Hyatt Hotels will open two 12-story towers with 190 rooms in 2020.
- Construction on a new, 400-plus-room Beaches Resort on the former Almond Beach property will commence in 2019 and take about two years.
Attractions reflect and enhance this growth. Nikki Beach Barbados opened in December, and both St. Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway and Virgin Holidays Departure Beach will debut this fourth quarter. The Year of Wellness and Soft Adventure will be a marketing theme for 2019. Griffith also called attention to long-term plans to rejuvenate Bridgetown, especially the sprawling UNESCO site, and the cruise ship facility.
For an update on other islands unaffected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, click here.
Antigua and Barbuda Tourist Board: antiguabarbudatourism.org
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism: bahamas.com
Visit Barbados: visitbarbados.org
Caribbean Tourism Organization: onecaribbean.org