by Jonathan Vatner | November 01, 2004

The Westin at Our Lucaya


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 Frances.
    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.