Caribbean coun­tries need mass tourism, not just bou­tique ho­tels

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BUSINESS - By Chris­tian Wayne

Last Fri­day, mem­bers of the lo­cal me­dia were treated to an af­ter­noon of “All In Lux­ury” at The Roy­al­ton Saint Lu­cia Re­sort & Spa—the is­land’s new­est 5-star allinclu­sive ho­tel lo­cated in Cap Es­tate. Ar­chi­tec­turally, the Roy­al­ton is a bor­der­less space of sprawl­ing el­e­gance made pos­si­ble through the me­thod­i­cal us­age of glass, com­bined with rich wood-pan­el­ing and a light dust­ing of Guyanese-im­ported white sand to match the post­card. With 456 suites, 11 restau­rants, and tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in in­vest­ment cap­i­tal, Saint Lu­cia’s first and only Blue Di­a­mond Re­sort can le­git­i­mately be de­scribed as a trib­ute to op­u­lence.

Though Roy­al­ton (a sub­sidiary of Sunwing Travel Group) isn’t quite a house­hold name in Saint Lu­cia at this time, the ho­tel’s pre­de­ces­sors cer­tainly have a sto­ried his­tory. Stand­ing proudly over the graves of two for­mer mega­ho­tels turned mega-fail­ures, Sunwing Travel Group’s Chair­man Colin Hunter stated that his his­tory with Saint Lu­cia is in fact closely con­nected with the defunct Club Saint Lu­cia and the Go­bats —the prom­i­nent Bri­tish-Saint Lu­cian mil­lion­aire hote­liers whose son, sadly, was in 2014 as­sas­si­nated less than a mile from where the Roy­al­ton stands to­day.

With over 8,000 rooms un­der man­age­ment through­out Cuba, Ja­maica, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and An­tigua, along with a dom­i­nant po­si­tion in air lift into the Caribbean via STG’s other sub­sidiary busi­ness, Sunwing Air­lines (Hunter told re­porters that his air­line is cur­rently av­er­ag­ing over 100 flights to Cuba per week), the ver­ti­cally in­te­grated travel and leisure con­glom­er­ate shows no signs of slow­ing growth.

Founded as re­cently as 2002, STG has pur­sued ag­gres­sive growth in the North Amer­i­can and Caribbean re­gions, largely through a heav­ily M&A fo­cused growth strat­egy tar­get­ing tour op­er­a­tors in sev­eral re­gions. Three years in, the group rolled out Sunwing Air­lines, which to­day boasts an im­pres­sive fleet of 37 air­lines. Shortly af­ter­wards, Sunwing Travel Group en­tered into a strate­gic merger with TUI Group, a Ger­many-based tourism be­he­moth and the largest leisure and travel com­pany in the world.

Un­re­lat­edly or oth­er­wise, TUI Group-owned and op­er­ated cruises also fre­quently call into Port Cas­tries, de­liv­er­ing thou­sands of tourists per month to Saint Lu­cia’s shores. In keep­ing with Sunwing’s trend of ac­quir­ing its sun-beaten com­peti­tors ea­ger to get out of the Caribbean heat, their 49% mi­nor­ity share­holder TUI Group seems to agree with the tac­tic, evinced by its re­cent pur­chase-and-con­vert deal of Royal Caribbean In­ter­na­tional’s Splen­dor of the Seas and Leg­end of the Seas lines into their very own TUI Dis­cov­ery. Over­all, Sunwing & TUI’s in­ter­ests in Saint Lu­cia seem to rep­re­sent what the gov­ern­ment hopes is a re­newal of pos­i­tive sen­ti­ment in the na­tion’s abil­ity to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment. Judg­ing by this com­pany’s foot­print on the is­land, it ap­pears the best brains in the Min­istries of Finance and Tourism might fi­nally be onto some­thing after all.

Asked by this re­porter how Saint Lu­cia could in­crease its com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages as a des­ti­na­tion for tourism in­vest­ment, the Cana­dian hospitality mag­nate called on the gov­ern­ment to “do some­thing about that air­port”, al­lud­ing to the 90-minute jour­ney his guests must cur­rently en­dure as they skirt the poorly-lit cliff-side roads that line Saint Lu­cia’s coasts. Hunter fur­ther stated that what coun­tries such as Saint Lu­cia need is “mass tourism; not just those bou­tique ho­tels.” The chair­man dropped that gem shortly after he an­nounced that this week Sunwing will be open­ing a big­ger and—if you can be­lieve it—more beau­ti­ful re­sort in Ne­gril, Ja­maica!

The Roy­al­ton Saint Lu­cia fea­tures 456 suites and 11 restau­rants for guests look­ing for a lux­ury-in­cluded va­ca­tion pack­age.

The Roy­al­ton Saint Lu­cia will host its Grand Open­ing cer­e­mony later this month.

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