Adrian Loveridge Column – Hotel Investment Galore!
Of course there are many positive attributes to the all-cash sale of Elegant Hotels to Marriott recently and enormous kudos should be given to the locally based Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sunil Chatrani and his team, for taking the company to this stage, ensuring that his fiduciary responsibilities were executed and realizing, what appears to be a very attractive offer for the company’s shareholders.
Today, Elegant employs over 1,000 local people, with only two work permits, bringing in 100 per cent of their revenue into the foreign reserves, which currently amounts to around ‘$120 million per annum’.
Marriott is a largely brand driven group, or as its website describes, an ‘unparalleled Collection of Brands’ promising ‘whatever your preference, we can’t wait to welcome you, while placing enormous emphasis on its stated 133 million BonVoy members.
The recently renamed loyalty programme embraces 30 brands across 131 countries and more than 7,000 hotels, which should especially help us drive our US market.
What isn’t quite so clear from outsiders at this stage, is how exactly, they will brand, operate and market three of the smaller Elegant Hotel properties, notably the House, Treasure Beach and Waves.
All of them currently occupy relatively small land spaces, so unless demolition and reconstruction skyward is under consideration to greatly increase the number of rooms, it is difficult to envisage how they will fit into the existing Marriott accommodation offerings.
Perhaps the closest sub-brands are their ‘Tribute Portfolio’ which cites certain properties as boutique, but this currently does not include any hotels within the Caribbean.
And their ‘Autograph Collection’, which includes just two properties within the region. French Leave Resort consisting of ‘12 luxury colonial-style villas’ located on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera and Scrub Island Resort and Spa in the British Virgin Islands with ’52 ocean view rooms and suites and seven hillside villas’.
So it will be interesting to see exactly how Marriott incorporate all the new Barbadian acquisitions into their branding model.
Add the former Elegant rooms to the existing 118 rooms of the Courtyard Barbados property and Marriott now have 706 in total on the island, becoming the single largest private sector hotel owner/operator here and this having been achieved without the granting of extraordinary concessions that a limited few have been able to extract.
Meanwhile, the Government, or should we say taxpayer, with its 354 rooms at the Hilton, 102 at Savannah (currently up-for-sale) and until clarity is given whether or not, the 100 room plus Blue Horizon has in fact been sold and paid for at a fire-sale price, based on the promise of becoming a Hard Rock Hotel?
Add the former 242 rooms at the now idle Sam Lords Resort still surrounded with the ongoing apparent secrecy concerning the future of this project and the public sector may still be just ahead in overall room stock.
This will probably change, as and when the promised Beaches property is completed and opened. The Sandals group will then leapfrog into first position, presumably with all the leverage and potential benefits that brings, by a lodging dominance of the destination.
Existing and any new accommodation investment will then obviously have to evaluate whether or not they can fairly compete without a truly level playing field.