East End luxury hotel moving ahead

The Island Resort and Residences, a planned ultra-luxury, five-star condominium hotel in the Colliers area of East End, is moving toward a March 2008 groundbreaking after several recent sales.

Developer Michael Beggs recently moved to the island to oversee the development.

‘We’re now getting down to the nuts and bolts of the project,’ he said.

Mr. Beggs said momentum was building on the resort.

‘We’re bringing all the right tools together to make this gel,’ he said. ‘Some of the methods and marketing tools have never been used on the island before.’

One of those tools Mr. Beggs and his development team are using involves paying realtors commissions up front. Normally in Cayman, when new construction is sold, realtors have to wait until the transfer of title before commissions are paid. By paying the commissions up front, Mr. Beggs believes realtors will be sufficiently motivated to sell The Island Resort and Residences.

The strategy seems to have worked. After a period of stagnant sales, three units at The Island Resort have sold recently on island, to go with the seven units that have been sold to the group’s established client base in Belize.

Rather than waiting for visitors to come to Cayman to learn about The Island Resort, the developers are using contacts and methods to reach potential buyers at their homes. Interested purchasers, many of whom have never been to the Cayman Islands before, are invited to spend up to a week here to learn more about the island and the resort. If they purchase a unit, the cost of airfares and accommodations are deducted from the purchase price.

In total, The Island Resort and Residences will offer 81 units, which can be used as 218 individual hotel suites. Mr. Beggs said it would not take a great number of sales to commence construction.

‘We don’t need to generate a lot of capital to move this project forward,’ he said, adding that he has a good financing arrangement in place.

To further encourage sales, Mr. Beggs has personally met with most of the local realtors to educate them about the development and about how to sell an ultra-luxury product.

Selling a luxury project off of Seven Mile Beach, the traditional hotbed of foreign real estate investment in the Cayman Islands, is not something with which many realtors are familiar. Mr. Beggs, however, believes Seven Mile Beach is not the place for his target market. In fact, Mr. Beggs said he chose the East End site for The Island Resort after touring the island several times and then looking at a map and seeing the farthest place possible from Seven Mile Beach and George Town.

‘Seven Mile Beach is not what the ultra-luxury client is looking for,’ he said. ‘It’s not the future of Cayman.’

Mr. Beggs, who worked as a tourism development consultant for the government of Seychelles before becoming a successful developer himself, says he knows what the ultra-luxury tourist is looking for.

‘History proves me right. Look at the top resorts anywhere in the Caribbean,’ he said. ‘None of them are in a city environment. Every one is in a peaceful, tranquil setting.’

If the selling of ultra-luxury units requires a different mindset for realtors, it will also require a higher standard of facilities than has been previously available here.

Guests will arrive at grand entrance gates and travel down a driveway lined with royal palms to a large porte cochere. Cars will be taken away by valets to an underground parking structure, which will also house the offices or stations of most of the hotel staff. Guests will never see housecleaning or maintenance staff – who will use private elevators rising from the underground structure – unless they are knocking at their door.

Inside the front lobby, which will feature a large Tuscan fountain and a vaulted ceiling more than 35 feet high, guests will not have to wait in line at a reception counter. Instead, guests will sit for the check-in procedure.

The rest of the hotel will have the same detail to luxury, including a spectacular trio of connected swimming pools that will span about 480 feet of the 800-foot oceanfront property.

Mr. Beggs, whose development team has completed four four-star hotel projects in Belize already, wants The Island Resort to shine even brighter.

‘We’ve put a lot of effort into making this the best product on the island,’ he said. ‘It is very important for us to do something that stands out and becomes a flagship product.’

In the end, Mr. Beggs believes The Island Resort and Residences will become one of the best luxury hotels in the Caribbean.

‘We intend to make this a product Caymanians can be extremely proud of,’ he said, adding that the development will be a ‘high-end, low-impact resort’.

Once operational, The Island Resort will probably staff about 350 people, Mr. Beggs said. To maximise the economic impact of the project on the island, Mr. Beggs said the developers will not build staff housing to ensure employees have to seek accommodations from elsewhere in the community.

Even if guests tend to stay put once they arrive at The Island Resort and Residences, they will have a significant impact on the local economy, Mr. Beggs said.

‘Most of the operational expenditures going into running the resort will go to the [local] economy,’ he said. ‘These tourists do come to the island, they do use car hires, and they will spend money outside of the resort.’

If the groundbreaking goes ahead as scheduled for March 2008, Mr. Beggs said the project would be completed by September 2010.

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