By anguillian December 4, 2017 11:42




There is a big drive by Starwood Capital, the Connecticut-based Investment Group, to have its property in Anguilla, managed by Four Seasons, the internationally-renowned hospitality luxury company, back in business and even better, as quickly as possible, following the impact of Hurricane Irma on September 2017.
Mr. Steve Watson, who is originally from the United Kingdom, is Starwood Capital’s Representative and Director of Development in Anguilla. He is heading a restoration team which is now speedily working to have the property fully restored and in operation. Previously, he was involved in many aspects of engineering and development in the early construction days. He stayed on with the resort as it grew from Viceroy into Four Seasons and then, unfortunately, when it was struck by Hurricane Irma.

Interviewed by The Anguillian newspaper, Mr. Watson said: “What I want to express and put across is the fact that Starwood Capital, as owners, have stepped up tremendously and really shown that we need to get this property open. It is a case that we will achieve – and that is the big thing I am pushing for.”

“Can I tell that to the people of Anguilla?” he was asked by Mr. Nat Hodge.

“Yes, very much so”, he replied. “It is really the drive and the passion from Starwood Capital that will bring this property back round, and get the doors open so that Four Seasons can do what they do best – and that’s receive guests. There are great companies like Viceroy and Four Seasons that are very good at hospitality, but Starwood Capital is very good at owning and caring for the property, and that’s what I want to express and put across.”

Mr. Watson was asked to comment on the property’s current restoration process. “After the initial couple of weeks following the storm, we couldn’t do very much because we lost all of our mains power. Obviously, ANGLEC are now doing their best to provide that,” he stated. “We brought in a temporary generator which took about three weeks. We then went through our systems to see what we can operate. We took a big hit on our water production plant but got one part of it running until we could receive the new components. We lost the air condition systems for the major part of the hotel. The orders have been placed and they should be with us through January and February.

“The villas fared pretty well. We lost some glass and glares but their main systems are operational and there is limited air conditioning to keep them mould and damp free. The concrete roofs are all intact but it was the roof coverings (the water-proof membranes) that we lost. That was pretty extensive – all but three hundred thousand square feet of re-roofing. That work involves two contractors – one from the UK and the other from the US. Both contractors have just sent in specialists, skilled and certified roof applicators. All the rest of the work is being undertaken with labour from Four Seasons’ employees whether from Food & Beverage, Engineering or Housekeeping. They are all working hard together. The work includes removing all of the old roof systems and getting them ready for the new roof systems – so we are keeping them busy.”

Mr. Watson said that about three hundred and fifty employees, as well as managers at Four Seasons, had been redeployed in various different aspects of the restoration and maintenance work for the time being. “It is the hope and the intent that, as we slow up on the construction and re-development aspects, they will then move back into their normal operations to get ready to receive guests,” he pointed out.

He continued: “Shortly after the storm, we engaged many of our local teams as possible, from Four Seasons, in a big clean-up recovery which has gone very well. We still have a long way to go to re-establish things like the landscaping and other areas of damage and, of course, we still have the ongoing maintenance of the hotel rooms which don’t have air conditioning. As I said, we are very much active in preventing mould, damp and other issues which may arise, given the extensive damage we had on the roof systems and the air conditioners. We are working diligently on that albeit the setbacks and the long lead time and logistics in getting all the supplies to our island. This is because our main hubs in St. Maarten, and Puerto Rico, through which we normally tranship supplies, suffered a lot of damage and that has proven to be a little bit of difficulty. We have a lot of supplies coming in. Just for roofing products alone, it is in excess of seventy containers that we are trying to ship into Anguilla before Christmas. We have some supplies here and we are moving forward with those, but there is still a long way to go.”

The Starwood Capital Representative and Director of Development also spoke about relief efforts being undertaken, by his investment company, for the people of Anguilla. “On top of what we are doing, we are also running the Anguilla Stronger relief which is pretty much to assist a lot of the employees here who suffered, but it is also expanded through other hotel properties that have come together with us and the Hope Centre. We are spreading out to provide for as many of the community people as possible who suffered through the storm. Obviously, the shipping and logistics are also equally difficult, but we tend to balance that, and it is going pretty good and pretty strong.”

Asked how the relief work was being administered, he explained: “There is a committee set up by the various properties and spearheaded by the Hope Centre and ourselves here at Four Seasons, but it is predominantly Starwood Capital who is one of the big instigators on setting up the fund to help the community. Anybody may register with Anguilla Stronger for relief. It is assessed on a needs basis, but anybody is free to come up and take some lunch. We have power where people can also charge cellular phones or batteries. There are laundry and ironing services, shower facilities, and a lot of essential relief items that persons may need. They should just come up and register and, hopefully, we can satisfy their needs as much as possible.

“There is also another undertaking where we have a lot of construction materials coming in to help rebuild homes. There are people who have lost roofs and are struggling because, obviously, there is not a lot of work at the moment as a lot of the mainstay tourist industry is at a halt, and many persons do not have the funds to repair their houses. We are trying to provide an equal balance of essential building materials, essential food, and other essential needs. The more funds and donations we can get into the charity, the more we can possibly provide to the community. It is very much involved with other properties. We have set up some contractors to assess people’s homes and, hopefully, we can provide the funding for them to do that. If they can help, and can understand that it is a charitable need for the community, and that we are trying to secure some great prices from them, we can have more money in the fund to provide more help.”

Notwithstanding the damage and costly repair work to Starwood Capital’s property, Mr. Watson said they are prepared to help as many persons as possible. “We have the facilities here to stretch out because we are a big property,” he went on. “We also have a very large base of employees and the money we provide is very critical to the island getting back to where it needs to be. We know it is going to take a lot of time, and there are still a lot of people out there who are struggling, but we are in a fortunate position to be able to help and reach out wherever possible.”

Mr. Watson explained that persons seeking assistance, and visiting the property, should ask for Ms. Dorla Hodge, Director of Human Resources for Four Seasons and one of the committee members on the Board of the Hope Centre. There are additional key persons working with her from other properties – including Malliouhana-Auberge and Belmond Cap Juluca.

Answering a question relating to the good fortune that Four Seasons was attracted to the Starwood Capital’s property and Anguilla, Mr. Watson had this to say: “They came aboard to really enhance and to put a global mark on this property and Anguilla. Viceroy had done a great job, but we felt Four Seasons had a bigger brand market around the world. Having Four Seasons here has really brought the property to the forefront of tourism. They are still very much engaged, albeit the redevelopment process. That’s not their fault. That is what we are doing. Their work is hospitality and engaging with the guests coming to Anguilla. The task for me is to make sure that the doors are open as quickly as possible for them to continue to provide and bring the guests here to Anguilla.”

“Is there a time factor for the reopening of the property?”

“Yes, there is,” Mr. Watson replied. “It was our first intent that we would love to open the doors for one of the first major holidays after Christmas because it is evident that we cannot open before Christmas. But we have invited the owners of units to come to Anguilla for Christmas and they will stay in their villas.

“As I said, we have managed to get those operational a lot sooner than the main hotel – and they will be fully functional for Christmas. Those twenty villas will show that we are not totally closed but are open. That will be a great thing not just for them to be here in their purchased units or homes, but a great opportunity for them to get around the island and frequent, a little bit more, some of the restaurants which managed to open. We are going to be offering limited food and beverage for them, so they can experience the island a little bit more and again that would help the community. Most of that is for us to show the wider world that we are open for business and that’s a key thing.

“From there, we are hoping to aim for the Presidents’ Holiday weekend in the US because that always has been a very good lucrative holiday period for us here. We are pushing for that, and desperately trying, but obviously the equipment we need to get may not be here in time – but we are trying to find ways to expedite that so we can manage to open, if not all the property, some partial areas somewhat similar to what we did at the initial opening in 2009. If we can get between eighteen and one hundred rooms available and functional, that certainly will be a win. That will be somewhere between mid-February and mid-March. With the community around, and all of the guys from Four Seasons working with us in our efforts to open, nothing is being spared. We are absolutely working for that goal. It is one of the biggest challenges of my life, I must admit. Just getting through the storm was a challenge but this is definitely the challenge of all challenges.”

But given the hard work and determination of Mr. Watson and his team, they are certainly succeeding very well with the restoration of the much-acclaimed luxury resort.

The property comprises one hundred and eighty-eight available rooms – a combination of town homes, condominiums and hotel suites. There are thirty-two devoted hotel rooms.

By anguillian December 4, 2017 11:42


Latest Poll

Do you like the new layout of the Anguillian ?