The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa // © 2017 Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Feature image (above): Fairmont Saint Lucia is set to open in 2019. // © 2017 Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
The Caribbean has recently made headlines for harrowing reasons, as Hurricane Irma made its way past some of the northern islands. But a look at the long-term picture shows that the region’s role as a luxury travel destination will continue to remain bright, thanks in no small part to a variety of luxury hotel properties that have opened in recent months or are in the pipeline.
“There used to be a limited number of true luxury properties on these islands,” said Anthony Adler, president and CEO of Cruise and Resort Inc., a Virtuoso agency, in Sherman Oaks, Calif. “But when brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Fairmont Hotels and Grand Hyatt Hotels expand in the Caribbean, it gives the entire area more credibility as a luxury destination.”
Indeed, the Caribbean is welcoming an array of brands that enjoy broad recognition for their upscale offerings. Among the biggest news comes from the Bahamas, where the 1,800-room Grand Hyatt Baha Mar recently debuted as part of an ambitious new resort complex that will include the 300-room SLS Baha Mar, slated to open this fall, and the 200-room Rosewood Baha Mar, which is scheduled for a 2018 opening.
Among other Caribbean destinations increasing their luxury appeal is Anguilla, where the 181-room Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla opened its doors last year. The property features accommodations that include sumptuous 8,000-square-foot villas.
The hotelier is touting Anguilla as a peaceful alternative to other Caribbean hot spots, where large cruise ships or loud nightlife won’t distract vacationers looking for a pampering getaway. Meanwhile, this year, Belmond announced its acquisition of the 96-room Belmond Cap Juluca, with plans to spend some $36 million to renovate and expand the property next year.
All-inclusive luxury is on the rise in the Dominican Republic, where Blue Diamond Resorts will open the 168-suite, adults-only Hideaway at Royalton Punta Cana later this year. Also new in the Dominican Republic is the 512-room, family-friendly Luxury Bahia Principe Fantasia Don Pablo Collection, which opened last year in Punta Cana.
In the Dominican capital city of Santo Domingo, the newest luxury option is the 227-room InterContinental Real Santo Domingo, which offers chic decor, 300-count Egyptian cotton bedsheets, a handsome spa and a hip rooftop pool.
In Jamaica, the all-inclusive Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa — part of the Jewel Resorts portfolio — will open its doors before the end of the year, following an upgrade to the former Palmyra Resort and Spa in the Rose Hall section of Montego Bay.
St. Lucia is also getting ready for a major infusion of posh new accommodations with the 2019 opening of the 120-room Fairmont Saint Lucia at Sunset Bay. In the works as well is The Ritz-Carlton, St. Lucia, which will have 180 guestrooms and is slated to start accepting reservations in 2021.
Renovations are in the news at The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa, which recently finished a $50 million revamp that has brought fresh style to the guestrooms, public areas and dining venues. And on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, refurbishment is scheduled to wrap up in time for a reopening of Rosewood Little Dix Bay in December. New dining concepts, landscaping, one-bedroom suites with plunge pools and two-bedroom suites are among the new offerings.
In addition to Anguilla, Four Seasons has set its sights on Puerto Rico, with plans to open Four Seasons Cayo Largo in the east coast town of Fajardo in 2018. Also in the pipeline for Puerto Rico is Dreams Puerto Rico Resort & Spa, which will be the island’s only fully all-inclusive property when it opens in 2019. Located on the southern shore in the town of Guanica — about 21 miles west of the city of Ponce and 73 miles southwest of San Juan — the hotel will have a spa, a teens’ club and a kids’ club, among other amenities.
Another new name on the “island of enchantment” is Melia Coco Beach, which is the new moniker of the former Gran Melia Puerto Rico resort. As part of the change, a total of 120 rooms have been added to The Level, an accommodation category that offers extra amenities, including free breakfast and access to a VIP lounge as well as an exclusive pool area.
According to Adler, all of these developments are good news for travel agents looking to sell more luxury travel to the Caribbean, as companies are realizing that there’s a demand for resorts that adhere to the standards that upscale travelers are used to.
“There is an excellent opportunity for growth with the addition of these properties,” he added. “Let’s say the luxury room count goes up 50 percent. There aren’t 50 percent more travel advisors selling travel. Therefore, a big chunk of additional revenue is available to those who sell the area with enthusiasm.”
(Note: As of press time, due to Hurricane Irma, some of the included resorts are closed and are assessing or cleaning up damage. Reopening dates vary.)