The Caribbean hotel industry suffered major losses in September 2017, when back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc across the region, forcing the closure of many hotels. While some properties remain closed today, a palpable bounce back is in full throttle, with the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization predicting a 4.3 percent increase in tourism in 2019 over 2018 numbers.
From Antigua to St. Maarten, repaired and revamped hotels are coming back online, while new properties are being built, all helping the Caribbean to swing back into business-as-usual mode. The following update offers reasons why these destinations are once again becoming a major draw for meetings and incentive groups.
This British-owned island may be small, but it packs some serious hotel product. The 91-suite CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, has wrapped up repairs and added a new 5,000-square-foot meeting venue. The hotel, which also has seven villas, has completely revamped its F&B offerings: The lobby bar has been transformed into the Moroccan-themed KazBar, featuring a tapas menu with North African influences; Mosaic has replaced the former Café Med; and the Clubhouse restaurant, Santorini, will serve a range of dishes from Greece and the Mediteranean region.
Reopening on Dec. 15 is the 44-room Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort, one of the island's most iconic hotels. As part of its renovation, the resort has added an infinity pool and renovated all of its guest rooms. In early 2019, the resort will open 11 new beachfront suites, four garden suites and a two-bedroom beachfront villa, along with a completely new Auberge Spa. Also being added in 2019 is an all-new meeting and gathering space just off the lobby that will be able to host events for up to 60 people. The nearby 18-hole Greg Norman-designed course at the CuisinArt Golf Club is available to guests.
This Eastern Caribbean nation has green-lighted 15 new hotel projects, all geared to be open for business by year-end 2021. Among them is a 95-room Waldorf Astoria, the brand's first new-build in the region, along with a Marriott Autograph Collection property and a Rosewood resort.
The 79-suite Hodges Bay Resort & Spa reopened on Dec. 1, following a US$100 million renovation. Among the resort's three dining options is the Rum and Single Malt Bar. All rooms now feature Alexa Echo, the voice-activated concierge service.
The 44-room Abidah by Accra is set to open Dec. 15 on the island's south coast. Overlooking Enterprise Bay and within walking distance of the fishing village of Oistins, the new-build is near its sister property, the 224-room Accra Beach Hotel & Spa.
Meliá Hotels International's new 288-suite The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real is scheduled to open later this month. The new circle-shaped community-styled resort features swim-up suites; seven restaurants and bars, include a cigar bar; a steak house with an Asian-inspired menu featuring fresh sushi; and a ceviche bar serving ceviche, pokes and tartars. A full-service spa features 14 treatment rooms.
This week, the 43-room and nine-villa Silversands Grenada, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, opened on Seven Mile. It is the first major resort to debut on this nutmeg-producing island in 25 years. Anchored by an enormous infinity pool that the property claims is the "longest in the Caribbean," this new luxury property features three food-and-beverage concepts, including a cigar and rum lounge.
The 189-room Four Seasons Resort Nevis will unveil a multimillion-dollar transformation on Dec. 10. Celebrating its 25th year, the hotel sports a new Mediterranean-focused restaurant, EsQuilina, and the Crowned Monkey Rum Bar. On-site meeting and event space totals 8,000 square feet.
Originally scheduled to reopen this past October, the 388-room El San Juan Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton property, now has set Dec. 14 as the date. The property has undergone a US$65 million top-down renovation, which included the addition of a new tri-level Well & Being Fitness Center with an open-air workout area with punching bags. Meeting space clocks in at 40,000 square feet, including a newly redesigned 11,000-square-foot grand ballroom.
Reopening on Dec. 11, following a US$60 million renovation, is the 139-room St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, between El Yunque National Forest and Espíritu Santo River State Preserve. The renovation here included the replanting of 70,000 native plants. For those who want to pitch in with the island's ongoing recovery efforts, the resort is working in collaboration with the Bahia Beach Resort Golf Club and the nonprofit Alma de Bahia organization to provide volunteer opportunities. The resort plans to add an additional 90 guest rooms over the next three years.
The 107-room Candelero Beach Resort in Humacao, on tap to reopen later this month following a US$3 million renovation, is relaunching itself as "the only all-inclusive resort in Puerto Rico." The property features five restaurants and bars, with plans to add add another three concepts by spring 2019. Other amenities include close to 18,000 square feet of meeting and event space, two golf courses, and a tennis complex.
St. Maarten/St. Martin
On the Dutch side of this 47-square-mile island, the 130-room adults-only, all-inclusive Sonesta Ocean Point Resort is on target to reopen on Dec.15. The hotel suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Irma and has remained closed for repairs for more than a year. It features two restaurants, four bars and a newly renovated 24,000-square-foot conference center that can accommodate up to 700 attendees.
On St. Martin, the island's French side, the 83-room Belmond La Samanna will reopen on Dec. 10. Marrying a West Indian vibe with European flair, the resort serves French fare at Trellis, vintage bottles at La Cave Wine Cellar and a champagne menu at the new glam Beach Bar. There are two pools and tennis courts; three meeting rooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology have their own private dining room, lounge and garden-view terrace for receptions and meeting breaks.