ANGUILLA (The Anguillan)-There is much activity at Belmond Cap Juluca, Anguilla, where construction work is now in progress. The work involves renovating and expanding the property over a period of some fourteen months, making the already widely-known and acclaimed resort a top regional and international hotel again.
There are plans to build 25 new guestrooms, in addition to the renovation of all the existing buildings, with a total investment of approximately 121 million US dollars, including the acquisition.
The resort, formerly owned by Linda and Charles Hickox, was acquired by Belmond Ltd, which has a portfolio of iconic luxury hotels, train services and river cruises worldwide, and is headquartered in London. Belmond Cap Juluca officially closed just over two months ago for the renovation and construction work. Not only is the project on schedule, but many of the resort’s employees were rehired in the initial cleaning and preparatory work – and have otherwise been receiving assistance as Anguilla recovers from the impact of Hurricane Irma.
General Manager of Belmond Cap Juluca, Mr. Tiago Sarmento, who is overseeing the project, spoke to The Anguillian about the impact of Hurricane Irma on the closed property, the current renovation and construction work, and matters relating to the resort’s employees.
“The hurricane caused an impact to most of the property but, as we had already planned to be closed during this period, it did not have an impact on the schedule of the renovation. So we still plan to reopen by November 2018,” he stated.
“There were a few things we had to add to our schedule which were not originally planned. This included six weeks of cleaning the property from what Hurricane Irma brought to us. In a way, this was good because we were able to rehire around a hundred of our staff for a period of six weeks and pay them salaries that certainly helped them. That has really been our focus: to see how we can help our team and their families as much as we possibly can – and so every added task that the storm brought to us, we have seen it as a potential benefit for us to provide some work for our staff.”
He explained that the workers were from all departments of the resort such as “housekeeping, front office, food and beverage and beach services. Everyone was happy and they were hired to clean inside and outside the building to get it ready for the construction.”
Mr. Sarmento disclosed that, in addition to giving staff members additional days of work, he and his wife had funded a container of hurricane relief supplies for employees – including food for babies, water and generators. Another relief fund was put together by Belmond and guests for distribution to employees. Further, Belmond Cap Juluca has also organised, with other hotels in Anguilla, a relief centre at Four Seasons. Those hotels are Malliouhana, Zemi Beach and Four Seasons where the centre is based. “All four of us are working from the staff quarters at Four Seasons and I think this is something that is very good,” Sarmento said.
The Brazil-born General Manager, who has wide experience in the operations of high class luxury resorts, was asked to describe the work at Cap Juluca. He replied: “It is very interesting because Cap Juluca has a charisma, a certain spirit, and legacy that are very prominent for many years now – but in a way it is very easy to get in love with, as it is very natural. It is an opportunity for Belmond to bring the best to the table here and I think that both Cap Juluca and Belmond have a lot to win with this acquisition. It was a much-needed investment to be done and Belmond is an extraordinary company to belong to, and a brand that can definitely bring the essence of Cap Juluca to the world. For the same reason, Belmond is extremely proud of having a property like Cap Juluca that could express the values of Belmond as a brand at its best – as the property is very inspirational, very local and portrays the best image that Anguilla can possibly have to the world. I think it is a win-win from wherever you see it. I am very proud of being part of this project and extremely happy and sure that this is going to be an amazing property opening in one year’s time.”
Questioned whether the November 2018 reopening can in fact be achieved, given the scope of the work, Mr. Sarmento replied: “So far things are going according to plan after we spoke two months ago. Among other things, we are working heavily on the design of the new buildings and the interior of the existing buildings, doing the necessary tweaks and getting them approved, through the normal process, to have one of the best hotels in the world by November 2018.” He said that certain areas of the project require some input from Belmond’s headquarters in London, necessitating corporate officials to come to Anguilla periodically to check on developments at the property.
Mr. Sarmento said that the architectural and design company was from abroad but was sub-contracting work to Anguillian contractors and other workers. He said that even some of the employees at the resort were given priority to be interviewed by the overseas construction company. “This was something important for us, and to me, in particular to make sure that our staff is well taken care of,” he added.
He explained that, apart from the design plans, the work was also at a stage where there have been some demolitions including Blue Restaurant which will be replaced by a guestroom building and some of the rooms and other areas of existing buildings.
Originally, Cap Juluca and its beautiful and expansive beachfront have received rave reviews and awards from the travel trade press. Mr. Sarmento was asked what the marketplace was now being told about the current position of the resort, and its future, under the new Belmond ownership and management.
“We are telling the market that there will be a Belmond property, an exceptional place that will bring back the legacy that Cap Juluca has had in the good old days; and that this will be one of the most extraordinary resorts in the world,” he stated. “This includes the investment in the property, the very fine details of the decoration, guest service processes and offerings and the varieties of food and beverage. That is the message we are passing on to the market.”
He went on: “Just recently I was in New York and it is stunning to see how the luxury travel agencies look forward to having Belmond Cap Juluca opened. They know how much this investment was needed and they are just waiting for us to tell them the exact date the property will open so that they can send down their clients. Some of them came to Anguilla many years ago and want to come back. That is really motivating to hear, and when the time comes, the re-launch will be supported by a global marketing brand campaign. There are exciting times ahead and plenty to look forward to for Belmond and on the Island of Anguilla.”
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