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Between the mosquito-borne Zika epidemic in 2015 and increasingly destructive hurricane seasons, the last few years have not been easy for the Caribbean.
And now, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting tourism globally, this battle-worn region is once again devising new ways to attract visitors.
For several hotels, that effort means turning to their surefire way of appealing to both new and repeat guests: fresh renovations coupled with new programming.
“We enter 2021 with much hope and optimism for a year of opportunities ahead,” said Jorge Collazo, general manager of Wymara Resort & Villas in Turks and Caicos.
The property had already planned a $10 million renovation to be completed in phases by winter 2020-2021, but when the pandemic forced the resort to close in March, that timeline changed to a fast-tracked deadline of Oct. 15 in preparation for Wymara’s reopening.
“While the last year posed a significant challenge for us as a resort — not to mention the industry as a whole — we wanted to seize the opportunity of a blank canvas, ensuring we come out of it offering an even better and more thoughtful experience that aligns with travelers’ expectations as they start exploring the world again,” Collazo said.
Inspired by the natural beauty of Turks and Caicos, renovations at the resort gave a new look and feel to its 91 guestrooms and suites. The softer color palette now features wood tones and textures accented by bright blue hues. Decor trends point to the popularity of longer stays, as accommodations were outfitted with residential-style closet configurations and top-line furnishings and linens.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Baoase Luxury Resort — Curacao’s only five-star hotel — used the nation’s border closures to renovate its Culinary Beach Restaurant, adding a rooftop terrace, dark-wood accents and rattan pendant lighting that brings together the venue’s Balinese aesthetic. Most importantly, it also created a more expansive space for guests to dine at a safe distance from one another. Other new offerings include in-suite PCR COVID-19 testing, personalized butler service to minimize contact among guests and more.
The family-owned boutique property already had social distancing, privacy and safety built into the resort experience even before COVID-19, according to Marlow de la Fuente, director of sales and marketing for Baoase. The pandemic, however, pushed the small team to do “some major flip thinking and use the energy of the problem to create something new.”
The changes have been well received. De la Fuente even reports that most guests end up extending their stays after arriving.
“The escape from the reality we live in is real when vacationing at Baoase,” she said.
Though renovations of Radisson Blu Resort & Residence, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic were in the works before the pandemic, they are still worth mentioning. The recently opened property underwent an extensive revamping to become a Radisson Blu, with upgrades including a full lobby redesign, an overhaul of each of its five restaurants, the addition of art installations throughout the guestrooms and common areas and a new pool that gives way to direct beach access.
Meanwhile, in La Romana in the Dominican Republic, Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach reopened Oct. 8 with a complete transformation that featured newly renovated guestrooms, swimming pools, restaurants and bars, as well as a modernized lobby — all of which incorporate natural themes and colors into the design.
Another noteworthy renovation, completed in 2020, added the first-ever Swim-up Rondoval Suites to Jamaica’s Sandals South Coast resort. With this new feature, guests in the 112-room beachfront Dutch Village can enjoy zero-entry swim-up access, a private plunge pool, an outdoor soaking tub and Sandals Resorts’ new signature Serenity Swing with scenic views.
The DetailsBaoase Luxury Resortwww.baoase.com
Radisson Blu Resort & Residences, Punta Canawww.radissonhotels.com
Sandals South Coastwww.sandals.com
Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beachwww.wyndhamhotels.com
Wymara Resort & Villaswww.luxuriavacations.com