MAHO–More hotel rooms and a completely remodelled pool with a giant waterslide are among the improvements guests will enjoy when Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino’s Sky Tower hotel reopens in February 2019, adding twelve new rooms, making a total of 418 rooms.
Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Stuart Johnson received a progress report on the reconstruction of the four-star Sky Tower hotel and Sonesta St. Maarten’s signature five-star Ocean Point resort when he met Maho Group President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Saro Spadaro last week Friday.
When reconstruction of the Sky Tower hotel is completed it will be a practically new building, Spadaro informed Johnson. One of the significant changes for the Ocean Point section of the hotel was replacing the 40-year trademark green sloped roof, which restricted the ocean view from some rooms. He said Ocean Point will also have an additional Tapas Bar above its famous Point Restaurant and has gained an extra room with the new design.
Johnson said in a press release issued Sunday, “The reopening of hotels both large and small is a major objective in the 2018-2022 governing programme for the St. Maarten United Christian Democratic Coalition. It is critical to revitalisation of our economy and will result in spinoffs such as the increase of airlifts and the much-needed reduction of the cost of airline tickets to and from our destination.
“This is why I am emphasising the importance of rebuilding our local product and getting hotels and our airport back on track. Once we get our product back to St. Maarten’s standard, our market share comes back.”
Johnson said he recognised that the cost of flights had increased by up to 50 per cent in some cases and his ministry was committed to seeing this cost lowered in the interest of revitalising the economy.
According to the release, Johnson held a frank discussion with Spadaro during which he commended the hotelier for his commitment to rebuilding following the destruction of the resorts by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. “It is not said often enough, but I believe it deserves mentioning,” Johnson said. He also commended Spadaro for his personal efforts and the work he did to realize the establishment of the Hospitality First Training and Education Programme.
The Hospitality First Training and Education Programme is the brainchild of Spadaro and the Maho Group of Companies which was presented to government in 2017. It is being held at the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) training centre in Cay Hill. Spadaro’s Sonesta team was the first to participate in the programme, which began late in 2017 in advance of funding from the Trust Fund administered by the World Bank.
According to the release, Spadaro said he was touched by the minister’s comment. “There was no way I could simply put over 500 workers on the streets. I am not just thinking about our problem now, but I am also thinking of what will happen if St. Maarten is not ready for business within a few months. I also understood what it will mean for St. Maarten’s ability to compete in the tourism industry if we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to improve our product, including training our human resources,” said Spadaro.
He told Johnson that his urgency to rebuild came from watching the increase of visitors to Jamaica, Aruba, St. Kitts and the Dominican Republic as a direct result of the fact that St. Maarten is recovering from the hurricanes of 2017.
Spadaro said marketing St. Maarten was still essential to ensure that the improvement of the tourism product, including hotels reopening, was consistent with increased airlift and visitor arrivals to the destination. Johnson said his Tourism Department will continue to keep St. Maarten present in the minds of travellers.
Johnson toured Casino Royale, which will reopen shortly with the area that housed the former Tantra Nightclub turned into two fine-dining restaurants and a 360-degree view lounge.
Spadaro said the new design of Sky Tower Hotel and Ocean Point maximises the use of open spaces to create an improved “Caribbean experience.” He also explained that the use of foreign Chinese construction workers did not save cost but guaranteed 40 per cent faster construction speed with improved technology and availability of high-quality material.
Before construction began the Chinese contractors built two model hotel rooms in China which were critiqued by Sonesta before a final decision was made for the hotels’ new look.
Johnson asked about the strength of Sky Tower’s steel structure and was informed that 12,000 tons of steel will be added to improve the structure’s resistance to earthquakes. This was the recommendation of engineers following tests of the building’s ability to withstand high winds and earthquakes.
The first stage of work has already started with the application of a high-quality fireproofing material to cover the steel structure, which will be followed by the installation of entirely new electrical, water and brand-new air-conditioning systems.