Caleton Villa at Luxury Retreats at Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Iberostar opened two Jamaica properties in 2008, another in the Dominican Republic and held a total of 16
resorts in its Caribbean and Mexico portfolio by year’s
“We’re ahead of schedule with expansion plans in the
Caribbean,” said John Long, senior vice president for
sales and marketing. “Iberostar will add 100 hotels to
our global portfolio by 2012.”
Riu has four resorts in Jamaica, for a total of 2,357
rooms, including the Riu Palace Tropical Bay, which reopened on Dec. 5 after a $25 million redo.
CEO Luis Riu described the North American market
as “the primary market for our Caribbean properties. It
has responded positively to the Riu brand thus far.”
Solis The Palmyra Resort & Spa, Rose Hall, Jamaica
is a new name in the region and the first Caribbean
property developed by Horst Schulze. It’s due to open
in March, complete with the first branded ESPA spa, a
behemoth at 30,000 square feet.
Although the Dominican Republic’s 60,000-room
inventory is expected to grow by 12,000 more rooms
in the next few years, one or two ambitious real estate
projects are floundering in the wake of the economic
Cap Cana, the sprawling resort complex on the DR’s
East Coast, faced some financing difficulties last fall before securing a $100 million bridge loan in late November after a $250 million loan from Lehman Brothers fell
The project has attracted Aman resorts, Ritz-Carlton,
Four Seasons, Westin, Fairmont, three designer golf
courses and a mega-yacht marina.
Construction, however, was delayed and 500 workers
were laid off while the developers scrambled for cash.
However, the same problems did not affect the Moon
Palace Casino, Golf & Spa Resort, a 1,791-room sprawl
opening early in 2009 in the Punta Cana area.
It’s an all-inclusive, the largest in Punta Cana and the
first Moon in the region.
When guests tire of walking the beach, they can lose
themselves (and their money) in the 45,000-square-foot
Meanwhile, though American hotel brands are not
taking a backseat to the Spanish, 2009 could see a scaling back of their more ambitious expansion plans.
Hilton Hotels Corp. plans to quadruple its presence
in the Caribbean and Latin America with 150 new hotels over the next five years.
Hilton has 51 hotels in the region and 42 in the pipeline, from the Bahamas to Bonaire.
Hilton did drop its Tobago resort in November, but
the resort will reopen next July as the VHL Tobago Golf
& Spa Resort.
Ritz-Carlton, too, is on the move. It broke ground in
late 2007 on St. Lucia and on Rose Island, four miles off
There’s also talk of Ritz resorts and residential com-plexes on St. Kitts and in Puerto Rico’s Dorado area.
However, construction is temporarily halted at its Molasses Reef development on West Caicos in the Turks
and Caicos. Though a dispute between the developer
and several hundred Chinese workers has been resolved, construction has not resumed. The project is
Other openings include RockResorts’ Rum Cay Resort Marina in the Bahamas, and Third Turtle Club &
Spa, Turks and Caicos, both in 2011.
Puerto Rico’s current inventory of 134,000 guestrooms, with another 4,000 in the pipeline, will require
a savvy marketing plan, affordable rates and air and sea
access to get heads in beds, according to tourism consultant Enrique Gomez.
“It’s a great destination, and once they’re here, they’ll
know it,” Gomez said. “Selling them on the reality of
travel is what counts.”
Coming up in Puerto Rico are the Condado Vanderbilt in December 2011; the 509-room Sheraton Convention Center Hotel & Casino in December 2009; and the
W Retreat & Spa in Vieques in April.
The first Aloft Hotel breaks ground next to the convention center in May, and a Marriott Courtyard will
open in 2012 in the same neighborhood.
Elsewhere on the island, look for a St. Regis, a Mandarin Oriental, a JW Marriott and a Regent, all opening
Boom destinations in the Caribbean in 2009? It’s a
crapshoot. Jamaica has excellent lift from several carriers from numerous gateways. Its tourism numbers,
while down from 2007, still appear robust. A new playground for tourists is growing in the Rose Hall area of
Montego Bay due to the number of major hotel brands
that have taken up residence there.
Hotel occupancy in the U.S. Virgin Islands is off, but
cruise ships will return to St. Croix 51 times in 2009.
There seems to be no end to the growth of Punta
Cana, Dominican Republic, as a favored Caribbean
destination. Luxury developments are opening and are
planned, and golf courses are springing up faster than
the putting green grass can grow.
Though the Bahamas is struggling with high unemployment and low occupancies, the Ginn sur Mer mega
development on the West End of Grand Bahama Island
is still a go, according to developer Bobby Ginn.
Plans call for 400-unit condo-hotel, 1,000 private
homes, a golf course, a marina and a spa. Ginn encountered delays when he had to negotiate the restructuring
of a $675 million loan in September.
St. Martin will welcome its first Radisson in January,
and phase one of the Four Seasons’ development on
Grenada debuts in two years.
The lists go on and on. Hoteliers hope the recession
Iberostar, one of the Spanish firms to dominate the Caribbean construction scene in 2008, opened two properties in Jamaica, including the Rose Hall Beach Resort.