The Westin at Our Lucaya
Caribbean hotels and the rest of the region’s
$20 billion-a-year tourism industry are feeling the effects of lost
meeting business, thanks to a brutal hurricane season and
perceptions it spawned.
“We’re working on new business, but we’re losing more than
we’re getting,” said Teresa Kramer-Petrone, CMP, vice president,
marketing and sales, for the 845-room Crowne Plaza Golf Resort
& Casino at the Royal Oasis, on Grand Bahama. The property is
closed until April for repairs engendered by September’s Hurricane
Other properties on the island fared better. At the 751-room
Westin at Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort, which remains closed
until Dec. 17, meetings were moved to its sister property, the
519-room Sheraton, which reopened in November, or to other Starwood
hotels in the Caribbean.
Hotels report planners are reluctant to book business for 2005
out of fear that properties, as well as the general infrastructure
of the islands, will not be fully repaired.
Part of the problem is that “most of the publicity has been
doom and gloom,” said Karl Wentzel, director of sales and marketing
for Grand Cayman’s 336-room Westin Casuarina Resort and Spa, which
was closed until Nov. 1. “Once you talk to planners firsthand,
though, they become much more comfortable.”
Comfort will be harder to come by in Grenada, where Hurricane
Ivan crushed 90 percent of the island, including the 66-room Spice
Island Resort, which will remain closed for a year. Though some
hotels have reopened, officials estimate it will take at least a
year to revive the tourism product.
Until then, “you’re not going to enjoy what you enjoyed
pre-Ivan,” said Naline Joseph, head of marketing for the Grenada
Board of Tourism.