The sky’s the limit

Guests who are finally returning to Beach Club, Grand Cayman’s Caribbean-style all inclusive resort, following 15 months of closure are coming ‘home’.

Padraic Linnane

General Manager Marketing Systems International, Padraic Linnane outside Beach Club Resort.
Photos: Cliodhna McGowan

At least one well travelled upmarket guest who recently returned to this unique resort breathed a sigh of relief as he entered the familiar quaint surroundings, explaining that it was like returning home and he had never discovered anything quite like.

Beach Club Colony, located on Seven Mile Beach, and its sister property, Spanish Bay Reef in West Bay, offer true Caribbean style accommodation on an ‘all inclusive’ basis, and which its management says are the only all inclusive resorts on-island.

Both properties re-opened recently following a total bashing from Hurricane Ivan. Everything, from floors to walls, ceilings, electric and plumbing was all severely damaged in the storm and hence began a long period of rebuilding and refurbishing.

But the properties have come back larger than life, managing to retain all the character, charm and appeal that their repeat visitors keep returning for.

Marketing Systems International is the parent company of the two properties, along with Resort Sports Ltd. and Hertz located at Beach Club, and other businesses in the Caribbean. Owner Ernie Smatt got through the tough months hand in hand with his staff, not one of whom he let go through the entire re-building process, according to management, despite the fact that that business was not there to justify it. In fact, with a slow insurance settlement, the company was forced to cough up many millions of dollars for rebuilding in lieu of any payment. But, perhaps the goodwill between owner and staff is what is reflected in the delightful atmosphere of the resorts, where guests can truly find themselves at peace.

General Manager of Marketing Systems International, Padraic Linnane describes how maids were doing gardening and chefs were doing painting during the re-building process. ‘We developed the creative sides of the staff’s personalities,’ he laughed.

Now the staff is getting back into the hospitality mindset, greeting guests back into the fold. Luxurious décor, furniture and fabrics also lend a welcoming hand: new carpets from Italy, furniture from Mexico, curtains and bedspreads from Florida all work their magic on the character of the properties.

The company has always focused on the European market and is now looking forward to a busy season.

Mr. Linnane, who has been in contact with tour operators through the recent World Travel Market in London, says that the interest is there again in Cayman and we now need to put the Hurricane firmly behind us.

He commended the Department of Tourism, which, he said, is working very closely with the private sector in promoting Cayman.

He also commented that European tour operators are trying to target the long-haul travel market more now because of the extremely low rates of low-fare airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet. The Caribbean is being focused on more because, despite the hurricanes, at least hurricanes allow for watches and warnings, unlike earthquakes.

Interest has also increased in Cayman because the Mexico market was damaged in Hurricane Wilma and the Gulf Coast and Florida were also impacted by storms this year.

Mr. Linnane said that things appear to be getting back to normal and the major refurbishment of the Marriott and opening of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman are very big positives also.

The bookings are coming in at a very strong pace for Mr. Smatt’s two newly re-opened resorts, and Mr. Linnane asserts that this supports all the positive comments made at the World Travel Market recently.

‘Cayman is at a very exciting point, and anyone involved in tourism, who truly loves what they do, can feel the excitement and the adrenaline beginning to flow,’ he said.

‘No matter what, Cayman is still the best destination in the Caribbean, as it’s safe, clean, and offers peace of mind,’ he said.

The resorts, particularly Beach Club and Resort Sports also have a strong local market with corporate banking and accountancy firms booking family days and sunset cruises for employees and clients.

Another portion of the company’s business is the cruise ship market, offering land and sea based tours of the island.

Something new that Beach Club is venturing to offer is a one, two or three bedroom unit with Jacuzzi outside on the deck, a jacuzzi-bath inside, and a walk-in dining room with waiter service available. Two flat-screen TVs, computer and internet access and a full bar complete the luxurious package.

And as its strong base of return guests re-enter the beautiful Bougainvillia strewn entrance of Beach Club and the calm, breezy serenity of Spanish Bay Reef, they know that although the fixtures and fittings are all new, the old staff is there, and great care has been taken to lend that familiar charming look and sense of familiar.

When two resorts re-open after 15 months and the majority of bookings coming in are from repeat guests, the allure factor is obviously sky high.

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