Roy­al­ton prom­ises Best Caribbean Va­ca­tion at Of­fi­cial Open­ing

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams

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.

From left: Tourism Min­is­ter Do­minic Fedee, Min­is­ter for Eq­uity, So­cial Jus­tice and Em­pow­er­ment Lenard Montoute, Chair­man of Sun­wing Travel Group at the Roy­al­ton Saint Lu­cia Re­sort & Spa Colin Hunter, Gen­eral Man­ager of Roy­al­ton Saint Lu­cia Andre Dhan­paul, and other rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the sym­bolic rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony.

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