Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Thursday, 3 December 2009
  Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn, say what
The Elbow Beach Hotel closed for business on Monday with 160 people now looking for work or worse still having to pack their bags and go back to whence they came. Bermudian Premier Dr Ewart Brown recently talked about the myraid of proposed hotel projects on the island, none of which are anywhere near having a hole in the ground let alone a bed to sleep in.

A recent article in the Royal Gazette by Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch (probably the most Irish name I have ever heard) reported on the chances of some of these ever making it off the drawing board and I threw in some of my own investigative blogging as well.

Ariel Sands (left) has been in the Hollywood-set Dill family since the 1950's. Diana is the Bermuda-born American actress, once married to Kirk Douglas and father of Michael and mother-in-law of Catherine Zeta Jones, who is often spotted in the local grocery store. The Dill family remain major investors in the beautifully located Ariel Sands but the quickly corroding hotel's plans for a new resort/fractional ownership property sadly remain in a pile of unfunded hotel deals sat in the world's nervous investment houses.

Near me in Paget, the Four Seasons picked up the Coral Beach and Horizon's resorts for a relative snip in Bermudian property terms but they have so far been denied planning permission to build their own fractional residences and a 150-room hotel. I believe also that the Four Seasons Group are very concerned about the restrictive work permit laws and therefore their ability to bring in what they would call quality hospitality staff to work in the hotel once it is open, if ever built. Planning permission was originally submitted in october 2008.

Well known Caribbean hotelier John Jefferis is behind the Coco Reefs Hotel and it's dream to build 66 fractional villas and a six-storey hotel. Jefferis recently said "I have always thought a recession is a good time. Some of the best developments have been built during a period when the economy is in distressed mode," and certainly Jefferis has the knowhow. The Coco Reefs is still open but has an ageing sparsity to it despite the ludicrous rack rate of $450 a night.

The highest profile location slated for a new hotel is in Hamilton on the corner of Par-la-Ville Road and Church Street, overlooking the city's prettiest park. In June Starwood Hotels announced their plans to open a luxury St Regis hotel with 140 rooms, a spa, infinity pool, 4,000 square-foot ballroom and a grand outdoor courtyard. This morning it still looked like a car park but according to a spokeswoman developers plan to break ground next summer.

In August last year I wrote about the old Club Med hotel in the UNESCO World Heritage town of St George's, which sat closed for 18 years before finally being demolished. Developer Carl Bazarian (who was on the US Airlines flight that landed in the River Hudson) is the developer behind the Grand Hyatt. This is an important project for Premier Brown and there was a huge fanfare when Hyatt signed the agreement to build on this beautiful site at the far east end of the island. Nick Faldo was also witness to the agreement and will be involved in the re-development of St George's Golf Club. Since then the usually media friendly Mr Bazarian has been slow in coming forward on updates to the project.

Morgan's Point is worth a blog post all on it's own. The former US Naval Base was handed back to Bermuda in 1995 but was badly polluted. It's 260 acres has been off-limits (right) to visitors and residents since May 1995 and is easily the largest piece of unutilized land in Bermuda. In 2007 The Jumeirah Group was attached to plans to turn the peninsula into a huge 900-room 5-star development but the Dubai investors will today be pleased that they managed to wriggle themselves out of that one. Before anything is done with the land there needs a mighty clean-up exercise to include the removal of all asbestos-containing materials and a number of underground fuel storage tanks plus several miles of underground fuel pipeline and the capping of two landfill sites. A messy business that will cost the taxpayer $30m.

New York based Scout Capital still advertise on their website their ownership of the former Wyndham/Sonesta Hotel on Southampton's South Shore. In January 2008 developers Scout announced plans for a $300 million resort called Southampton Beach but despite demolition being completed there is no tell-tale signs of new life and rumours say that Scout have become sellers and not developers of this 32-acre site.

In Warwick Parish the long abandoned Golden Hind restaurant site was earmarked for a residential and hotel development to be called Grand Atlantic Resort and Residents. The Government then stated that the area should be used for affordable housing in a public-private partnership with a completion date of 2013.

The historic but dilapidated old Canadian Hotel on Reid Street in Hamilton is another piece of property longed talked about as potential new hotel. Once owned by black businessman and major philanthropist James 'Dick' Richards the building was most recently a homeless retreat and is now owned by Ted Powell, who has recently said that they are still working on financing the project.

Bermuda continues to face a chicken and egg situation when it comes to tourism. The American cruise-liner traffic will still come but it is the lower end of the tourism dollar. People that arrive on the liners have everything they can possibly want on board including enough food to feed a small continent. They can stuff their fat faces on board, then crawl around a tropical island for a couple of hours, drink a rum swizzle and then get back on their boat just in time for an afternoon snack.

Top quality, service driven hotels will bring a different clientele to Bermuda, one willing to spend money in local businesses, thus boosting the economy but until the hotels are built and priced right, then those dollars will be absent from these shores.

It's funny that almost in every press release or website announcement developers claim that their project will be the first 5-star hotel built on the island since Clyde Best was a small boy, notwithstanding that at best these are still ideas in an architect's head or in an investment house's trash bin, the first actual 5-star hotel opened on the island in April.

Privately owned Tuckers Point Hotel (left) is a beautiful property situated at Castle Harbour at the east end of the island and looks very endearing on the eye. However bearing in mind how very expensive everything is, in my experience and I have heard the same from many people the service is truly shocking and a quick glance at Trip Advisor suggests recent visitors think that way too.

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After living in Chicago for four and a half years, I moved to the beautiful if bewildering island of Bermuda in July 2008. This blog is about being an exiled and depressed Charlton Athletic fan and whatever else the day brings.
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