Former Riu Hotel in Anse Marcel under new ownership, management | THE DAILY HERALD

~ To become St. Martin’s first luxury all-inclusive Secret Resort and Spa ~

MARIGOT–The former Riu Palace resort in Anse Marcel has been purchased by Sole Hotels and Resorts and its management entrusted to the Apple Leisure Group, it has been confirmed.

A question mark had been hanging over the heavily damaged 350-room hotel for months after Hurricane Irma in regard to its future with the hotel declining to give any news.

Sole Hotels Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tommaso Sandretto revealed at a press conference his group are the investors and purchased the property for US $62 million in June 2018 – $20 million will be spent on renovations alone.

Sole Hotels now has four resort properties, all managed by the Apple Leisure Group, a relationship that has proven to be very successful, Sandretto said.

Opening of what will be called Secrets St. Martin, is expected in the third quarter of 2019, providing there are no more hurricanes, no problems with sourcing of materials or labour, to cause delays.

“We are extremely excited to be in St. Martin, and to bring innovation to the hotel sector,” he added. “We have an excellent international team working with us, including the architect Luis Pons who will be designing the new hotel interiors and exteriors.

“He has worked on a number of hotels in St. Barths. Our concept idea from the beginning is to be at the high end. We felt the French side is deserving of higher quality, and that’s where Luis comes in to bring that St. Barths chic to St. Martin, and he’s done an excellent job.”

CEO of Apple Leisure Group, Alejandro Zozaya, noted conducting business in St. Martin is not something new as the group owns seven tour operators.

“We move about 3.6 million travellers from the USA to Mexico and the Caribbean,” he disclosed. “Nobody sends more people to the Caribbean than we do so we are very proud to be part of the Caribbean destinations for many years. We certainly want to increase the volume. The fact that we manage one hotel on the island already increases our appetite to bring more flights in to St. Martin, such as charters.”

Despite the hotel’s high-end all-inclusive concept, Zozaya said the group’s philosophy is to encourage hotel guests to dine out and experience the local atmosphere and culture, something that will come as encouraging news for businesses in Anse Marcel and around the island.

“Letting your guests experience shops and local restaurants gives them the opportunity to see the differences between the islands, to interact with the community, and increases the possibility they will return, and it’s better business for us because they have a better experience overall,” he reasoned.

“The group also operates more on a year-round basis and less on a seasonal basis, aiming for steady occupancy and employee stability. That means well-heeled travellers who spend money on shopping and excursions etcetera.

“About 40 per cent of our customers are from Europe so it’s not only from the USA. You are going to see a lot more tourists coming here, not only to this hotel but all over the island.”

Zozaya added with more Americans obtaining passports than ever before, the Caribbean still remains a “sweet spot” destination and St. Martin is high up on the list.

“The market is growing and I’m very happy and optimistic about this exciting venture and happy to be one of the actors,” he said.

Architect Pons gave the media an idea of the hotel designs in series of slides but stressed these were examples of the concept but they have not been finalized. No architect drawings were immediately available.

“The idea has been to bring the best of the location, mountains and the ocean, to blend them into the hotel making a park, secret gardens and lagoons, to give a better experience of the outdoors,” Pons explained before going into greater depth. “Swimming pools will be transformed into smaller one to create multiple experiences. We are relying on the tropical environment and vegetation.”

The buildings remain as they are but will be entirely refurbished. Guests will enjoy elegantly appointed rooms and suites with 24-hour concierge and room service, multiple gourmet a la carte restaurants and lounges serving top-shelf spirits, world-class spa facilities, and endless day and evening activities.

President Daniel Gibbs expressed his delight at this major development for the tourism industry and was particularly happy that all 167 employees of the former hotel will be retained. Employees will go through training programmes for the new brand leading up to the opening.

“We discovered St. Martin right after hurricane Irma damaged the island. Immediately, we recognized the untapped potential of the island for 5-star luxury resorts,” said Sandretto. “With the support from President Gibbs and Apple Leisure Group, we are confident that our investment will benefit the growth of the island and the whole community creating new jobs and showing how to bounce back from natural disasters. Sole Resorts plans to keep expanding its portfolio in the Caribbean and other key markets.”

Source: The Daily Herald