The Alexander Hotel on Cayman Brac will come back to life and add 32 suites to the Sister Islands’ room stock.
Nelson Dilbert, the son of the hotel’s developer Cleveland Dilbert, hopes to advertise the self-catering rooms on Airbnb in time for Christmas.
The Alexander Hotel closed in 2014 amid a controversy over the failed construction of a marina in the adjacent Salt Water Pond, which formed part of the original vision of the developer when it opened in 2009.
The application to dredge the pond and cut a channel through to the open water to create a safe harbour was denied in 2014 over environmental concerns.
Government subsequently agreed to pump the pond to deal with a separate issue of smell from the standing water that was impacting the hotel, but it demanded a costly environmental impact assessment for the marina project to go ahead.
Nelson Dilbert says he has no plans to revive the marina idea and that the smell from Salt Water Pond has been fixed over the years.
“There is no issue at all. The government has put in a pumping house on the pond that pulls water from it directly to the ocean,” he said.
“That keeps the pond fresh.”
Given that the property has been sitting dormant for years and the tourism industry is doing well, he said, the aim is to increase the limited inventory of rooms on the Brac and see more people go diving there.
In addition, events like the annual agriculture show, Pirates Week and Braccanal would always provide the opportunity to fill rooms.
“We are investing a significant amount of money into the property to reopen it,” he said.
The refurbishment includes the restaurant and bar area, but there are no plans to reopen these amenities yet.
Dilbert said, “We are hoping that if somebody down the road feels like they want to go into the restaurant business on the Brac, they may lease [the] restaurant or open the bar sporadically, whenever we are at a certain capacity.”
Initially at least, Airbnb will be the main avenue for advertising the rooms, to keep costs low and ensure a viable business that can operate profitably, with a couple of staff taking care of maintenance work and guest services, he said.
Whether the hotel will return to become a full-service hotel, Dilbert said, would depend on how much business can be generated from it.
“We will keep adding amenities as costs allow.”
The property was put up for sale in 2017 and it remains on the market.
“But the fact that it is just sitting there and souring does not make sense,” Dilbert said.
“So, we’ll put in some money and see what we can generate. If anything, it fixes up the property.”
With his own business Cayman Spirits Co. doing well and running smoothly, Dilbert said, it was now a good time to take on extra business.
With he and his younger brother Alex being the two investors in the 30 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom property, it remains ultimately a family affair, he added.