For the discerning traveler
The word “elegant” has the following definitions: tastefully fine or luxurious in dress, style, design, etc.; pleasingly graceful and stylish in appearance or manner. So, based on those descriptions, if you’re going to call anything “elegant,” you had better back it up with the goods. On the island of Barbados, in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean, there is a group of hostelries that calls itself the “Elegant Hotels Group.” And, for the discerning traveler, it definitely has the goods.
The Elegant Hotels Group was formed in 1998 from a collection of five Barbados properties that had been constructed independently in the 1950s and 1960s and was previously known as the St. James Beach Hotels – The Tamarind, The House, Colony Club, Crystal Cove, and Turtle Beach. This past March, the Group expanded to include the Waves Hotel and Spa which is slated to open for business, this August.
Keeping the Group’s elegance up to its own high standards is the responsibility of Sunil Chatrani, company CEO. And that takes both money and time. “We do renovations every year,” he explains. “Typical for the industry is spending about four percent of revenue on what we call regular F, F, and E (Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment). We go beyond that; we spend five or six percent of our revenues and we use some of those funds to do special projects. We take advantage of the slower season when we need to do major renovations in public areas that might include things that we would do in a restaurant, or pools, or things of that nature.”
Every one of the Group’s hotels gets the attention it needs on a regular basis. “We alternate between the properties year after year,” says Chatrani. “Every year, one or two properties get a major injection. Last year, it was Colony Club – we finished the final block of rooms. We also did the restaurants in the previous year. At Tamarind, we have done some of the public areas like the spa and pool area and the bathrooms. At Crystal Cove, we have created a sundeck area and we’ve redone the bar. Those are the more recent ones, but we do things every year. Coming up for the next year, we’re looking at continuing to do more work at Tamarind in the public areas like the pool, the business center, and the gym. And similarly, at The House, we’re looking to build a spa and re-do the restaurant and bar areas.”
Chatrani says that the Elegant Group comprises well over a quarter of the upscale hotel rooms on Barbados’ Platinum Coast, home to most of the island’s fashionable lodgings. “Five of our six properties are on that coast, so we have around 30 percent of the luxury room inventory on the island, and that’s the market we compete in. But because of our capital expenditure programs and our relationships with the tour operators, we have been able to distinguish ourselves and set ourselves above the competition. Over the last six years, we spent almost $30 million in renovations during the time when we were in an economic downturn. But we continued to spend because we saw the benefits of building a brand. It’s a formula that has really worked for us over the years.”
Among the Group’s six properties there are 553 rooms. Seventy percent of the hotels’ guests come from the United Kingdom; 16 percent from North America; six percent from Europe; and eight percent from elsewhere. Elegant Hotels’ corporate headquarters facility is located in Barbados, but all sales, marketing, and distribution services are based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Most of the properties in the Caribbean and in Barbados are individually-owned properties,” Chatrani says. “We’re probably one of the few that has a portfolio of hotels, which affords us the ability to have a specific, dedicated, U.S. sales and marketing office, all in-house. And the U.S. office is away from the operations, away from the day-to-day distractions. And all they do is take reservations and market the properties, doing all the PR and everything else. So, we have a distinct advantage, that way.”
Future plans for the Elegant Hotels chain include more redevelopment of its existing portfolio and the potential acquisition of additional properties both in Barbados and on other Caribbean islands, such as Antigua and St. Lucia. “We have a pipeline of opportunities that we’re actively engaged in and looking at, and there are some real possibilities out there. Hopefully, within the next financial year, we’ll be able to announce something.”
Key to Elegant’s continued success will be its strict adherence to its brand identity, coupled with its ability to offer a range of amenities to suit the tastes of a broad array of travelers. “We’re building a brand,” says Chatrani. “But we’re not a typical brand that has a cookie-cutter approach. Each one of our properties within the portfolio offers a different experience: The House is an adults-only property; Turtle Beach is an all-inclusive family product on the south coast. And we have the whole range of things in between. And going into the other islands, we will have great opportunities within the brand to meet most markets’ demands.”
Chatrani adds that while Elegant Hotels is a publically-traded company that offers good returns to its investors – it floated on the London Stock Exchange in May 2015 – it is also a local company that provides great work opportunities for Barbados residents. Of its 1,000-plus employees, “we have only two work permits on the island,” he states. “We are a growing company, expanding in the region. And it’s a true Caribbean company.”
And, of course, a truly elegant one, as well.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Elegant Hotels
WHAT: A group of six luxury hotel properties
WHERE: Barbados, Lesser Antilles, Eastern Caribbean
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