Other Resorts Benefit From Four Seasons' Closure

The recent closure of Exuma's Four Seasons Resort at Emerald Bay may have dealt a severe blow to that island's fragile economy, but it is paying off for a few high end resorts.

Grand Isle Resort General Manager Tracy Stoltz says there was an immediate influx of tourists when the Emerald Bay Resort initially closed its doors.

She noted that there were a number of people who had already made bookings and still wanted to visit the island.

"Those were guests that were pre-booked at the Four Seasons, so realistically, with their flights already being booked for Exuma, it was just easier [to change plans] and continue coming to Exuma," she said.

Ms. Stoltz said the resort has also beefed-up its advertising in hopes of attracting guests who were accustomed to staying at Emerald Bay.

She said her hotel has also hired a few of Emerald Bay's former employees.

"We do special offers to [several members] of the travel industry to try to [attract them] to Exuma and we have been [in contact] with the Out Islands Promotion Board as well as the Bahamas Hotel Association to advertise [these offers] and that has been a draw for our business," she said.

Ms. Stoltz said since the economic downturn, business at the Grand Isle Resort and Villas has been a "struggle" but said the resort has remained steady. She said the resort has a summer occupancy level of 23 percent.

"We have been fortunate to have our repeat business and actually our bookings are on par at this point with what they were last year," she said.

"During the earlier part of the year it was not the same but we continue to be steady and we hope that this can continue with continued marketing."

However, not all resorts on the island have benefited from the Four Seasons' closure. Many of them are now reporting low occupancy levels.

Neville Leechoy, general manager of the Club Peace and Plenty Hotel in George Town, Exuma, said even though the Four Seasons Resort has closed its doors, only a few of its former guests have patronized his resort, which normally caters to middle and low-income individuals.

Mr. Leechoy said occupancy levels at his resort now sit at one percent, due mainly to the economic downturn. As a result, he has had to place his staff on reduced workweeks and has opted any of Emerald Bay's former workers.

"So far business is dismal," Mr. Leechoy told the Bahama Journal Tuesday. He also admitted that because the resort is making little money it could not afford to advertise.

"There is no money to do it [advertise] because there is no money coming in and we have to go with the flow; so with the brand name that we have we are hoping that [people will come here solely off of word out mouth]. We can't put out what we don't have," he said.

Mr. Leechoy also noted that former guests of the Four Seasons Resort are not interested in staying at his resort because it is not a five-star resort like Emerald Bay.

"You've got to understand that Four Seasons guests are Four Seasons guests and people who may have previously made reservations with Four Seasons, seeing that [it is] a five-star hotel, have relocated to other destinations," he said.

"The only [hotel] that has benefited from Four Seasons being closed is the Grand Isle Hotel and Resort because they are also a high-end hotel," he claimed. "We have had some Four Seasons people staying here and some have loved it, but not all of them did."

However, Mr. Leechoy says he is hopeful that business will turn around by the end of the year.

"[It] would be really great for everyone to island hop and experience Exuma, Eleuthera and Abaco, but [the falloff] is all due to the economy," he said. "We have had family reunions and they could not afford to bring their entire family but they do come and even if it's 50 percent we welcome them," Mr. Leechoy said.

Last month, the receivers of Emerald Bay announced plans for what they termed to be the "orderly closure" of the Exuma property after the resort was plagued with a number of increasing losses coupled with the inability to complete a sale contract.

Source: The Bahama Journal