Elbow Beach Hotel
I spent a large amount of today and last night in the Elbow Beach Hotel
. This grand and historic hotel will close on November 30th after owner Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
and operator's Mandarin Oriental decided visitor numbers were too low for it to continue. This combined with the huge and I suspect unavailable amounts of money required to upgrade it's 235 rooms will result in Elbow Beach becoming for many years to come a sad ghost of a once very distinctive building.
The hotel opened as the South Shore Hotel in 1908 and is rare in that it is timber framed. After WWII it enjoyed socialite status and was a popular college break destination for rich kids in the 80's. It's last upgrade though was in 1991 although the 2003 Hurricane Fabian forced the cottages nearer to the beach to be refurbished and modernised and in fact they will remain open to tourists, albeit without the hotel's infrastructure until the hotel re-opens.
Despite somewhat surprisingly in my mind the hotel being named one of the world's top 500 properties this year by Travel + Leisure Magazine
, actually for many years the Mandarin Hotel Group have been kind of stuck with Elbow Beach after they took it over in 2000, receiving no encouragement from the island to bring the resort standards up to their demands. They now plan to re-open the hotel on a much smaller boutique-scale in March 2010. The project has been given a $10m budget and will include a refurbished lobby and a new recreation room as well as the complete renovation of the free-standing Bermuda Room, which will be restored to its authentic 1908 design and used as a banqueting and meeting room.
Restaurant's Lido, Mickeys and Seabreezes will remain open on the beachfront as these are not owned by the hotel but sadly to go are the excellent Seahorse Grill and the lobby's Veranda bar, home of my favourite Friday curry night. I grabbed a massage in the spa today - the girl sounded and in fact looked like Tattoo
from Fantasy Island - and this will close also and in total 160 jobs will be lost at the end of this month, half of which are held by Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians or those with Bermudian status. Tourist numbers are down close to 25% for the year. These numbers are complete tosh mind you as they count ex-pat workers coming back into the country.
When the closure was announced Premier Brown expressed optimism on the hotel's future saying when it re-opens "it will then be able to compete with brands like Park Hyatt, Four Seasons and St. Regis."
You have to give it to him he does have a wonderful imagination!