Four hundred and fifty six suites and the best service the Caribbean has to offer is what the new Cap Estate development will bring to Saint Lucia’s tourism industry, that according to the property’s general manager Andre Dhanpaul at last Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. On opening day the media was taken on a tour of the facility. Once back at the starting point in a main lobby as grandiose as it was spacious, overlooking an emerald green ocean and the hotel’s entertainment facility, Dhanpaul told reporters construction had taken eighteen months. Staff had also been hired and trained during that time. The general manager said the all-inclusive property now features 950 hosts, 98 percent Saint Lucian.
“We are very proud of that,” Dhanpaul said, going on to talk about occupancy, which he said was at 25 percent when the hotel started welcoming guests this week. “We’re very pleased,” he added. “At the beginning of a hotel opening, generally you start off slowly maybe 25 to 30 percent and you slowly ramp it up. In April we go up to about 50, and in May we’re already at about 80 percent, which will more than likely grow to 85-90 percent.”
Most of the guests are from the United States and Canada, and will occupy 48 rooms in the hotel’s first week in operation. Asked about feedback so far a beaming Dhanpaul said: “People are loving us.” He revealed that the hotel’s first batch of guests had booked months ago. “It’s a huge buzz,” he went on, “and Saint Lucia is a great catch.”
Though sections of the hotel are still unfinished, the general manager said there was no construction happening as of opening day.
“It’s finishing,” he said. “No rawness at all, no building of anything, but assembly, which will be happening behind the scenes. A bit more than 50 percent of our inventory is ready, all of our restaurants, bars, pools, entertainment, gym, kids club, all the other amenities, everything else is ready.”
Speaking at this week’s opening ceremony Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee described the Royalton brand as bringing a tremendous force to the destination.
“It’s a product we didn’t have before that is going to lend itself to our marketing initiative and is going to help us tremendously,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it. I know a lot of the people who work here, and the employment opportunities are tremendous. I think this project is such a positive for the destination and gives us such momentum. It’s going to give us a good opportunity, as well, to attract more airlift to the destination. There are so many positives coming out of this investment at a time when the economy badly needs it; at a time when the employment rate is of much concern.”
Just back from the Roots conference, a convention where airlines of the world meet, Fedee described his meetings as positive.
“We’re looking at some new gateways for Saint Lucia,” he said. “It is too premature for us to make any announcements now but I’m very encouraged by the talks that we had.”
Fedee said government intended to double the GDP of the country, and “tourism will have to play a leading role.”
He continued, “It is coming at a time when we are in the process of renewing our tourism incentives so we can make our investors a lot more viable, and a lot more competitive so we have a sustained industry.”
The Tourism Minister touched on the new direction for the island’s tourism product, a process that included “coming up with a new branding position and streamlining our marketing”.
“You would have noted the decision to reduce the tourist board’s investment in the jazz festival so we can have more of that money to actually market the destination where it really matters,” he elaborated. “All of these things are being done in an effort to actually drive demand to the destination and increase the amount of arrivals coming to the country . . . I think you’re going to see a turnaround in the next few months. “
Meanwhile, Chairman of Sunwing Travel Group at the Royalton Saint Lucia Resort & Spa Colin Hunter, who also attended the event, said he was happy that the resort was finally hosting its partial opening, and that Saint Lucians could expect the Royalton to not only bring tourists to the island, but to be a good employer.