November 25, 2020

A bright future for the Caribbean’s heritage hotels

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GoldenEye, Oracabessa,

By Sarah Turner From Forbes

I cover and analyse trends in destinations and accommodation.

When, after World War II, the first wave of glamour washed up in the , Ian Fleming and Noel Coward led a vanguard of writers and society to the shores of Jamaica. This effect spread throughout the different islands. Some hotels, like Sandy Lane in Barbados, have reinvented themselves as mega resorts. Others have tweaked themselves more gently into the 21st century, creating distinct properties that know their potential guests have no appetite for all-inclusive hotels or buffet breakfasts.

Experience has taught hotels and hoteliers that ultimately, trends and the Caribbean don’t go together well. A flurry of 1990s enthusiasm for Balinese-inspired or Asian set-square precision has largely disappeared. Instead, hotels are playing to their strengths, blending nostalgia and modernity.

Refurbished in 2014, Malliouhana in Anguilla showed how to give a hotel a distinctively Caribbean look and feel. Designer Todd-Avery Lenahan looked to the 1940s and 1950s for inspiration with exuberant colors, from the yellow sunshades around the swimming pools to the turquoise chintz-covered chairs. Now with 44 rooms, including 8 suites, a further nod to the past means that all the rooms have television disguised as mirrors.

Jennifer Atkinson, CEO of British tour operator ITC Luxury Travel comments: “There’s continuing demand amongst our clients for high-quality all-inclusive offerings – for instance, resorts such as , A Rosewood Resort in Antigua and Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada where à la carte and fine dining are part of the offering. Resorts in the Caribbean are really upping the ante in this area, offering something more special than the traditional international buffet. At the same time, our clients are choosing the Caribbean for a relaxing holiday, so those resorts that have embraced the concept of barefoot luxury – offering quality service, accommodation and facilities without strict formality – are also proving popular.”

The Rosewood hotel group, a big player in the Caribbean, has invested significant amounts in recent years. Founded by Laurence S Rockefeller in 1964, this year, Little Dix Bay will reopen after an 18-month renovation. In line with the current ethos of increasing suites, come December, there will be a reduction in rooms from 95 to 79, but there will be two new beach houses and two bedroom suites with direct beach access, and seven new one bedroom suites, overseen by the Manhattan-based Meyers Davis Studio. Another in the Rosewood group, Jumby Bay in Antigua, has just spent £4million on restoring its bar and restaurant.

Ironically, when it came to reinventing the Caribbean hotel for the 21st century, Chris Blackwell of Island Outpost has the led the way, particularly with Goldeneye, once Bond writer Ian Fleming’s own villa. First opened in 2011 on Oracabessa Bay, from the first, it sought to move away from an enclosed sense of luxury, with a swim-up spa and one of the Caribbean’s best beach bars in Sha’been. Last year saw a serious expansion with 26 new beach huts, overseen by Jamaican architect Ann Hodges with African-inspired prints, locally-made furniture, outdoor showers and no air-conditioning. Goldeneye’s original owner would feel at home.


The new Estate House bar at Jumby Bay

A room at Malliouhana in Anguilla

The new Beach Hut rooms at Goldeneye, Jamaica

Little Dix Bay is set to reopen in December

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