Blue Waters Resort & Spa – Antigua’s destination of choice

written by BVC January 14, 2022

Blue Waters Resort & Spa

Antigua’s destination of choice

 

Business View Caribbean interviews Kevin Phillips, General Manager of Blue Waters Resort & Spa, for our focus on Best Resort Destinations in Antigua

Blue Waters Resort & Spa, an award-winning luxury destination, is tucked into the northwest corner of Antigua, overlooking the majestic azure waters of the Caribbean Sea. This peaceful tropical paradise has been a choice vacation spot for more than 60 years, offering guests a warm and friendly atmosphere, amidst a rich variety of amenities and experiences. From private villas to deluxe beachfront rooms, suites and penthouse accommodations, the resort has something for everyone – accommodating large family getaways and intimate romantic retreats. Relaxing on the white sand beach, discovering the treasures of the pristine waters, and enjoying a day at the spa, are all possibilities for guests of this stunning island haven.

While COVID-19 has created challenges for the resort, recent months have shown that things are looking up for Blue Waters and the hospitality industry in Antigua. Kevin Phillips, General Manager shares, “The island actually had one of the strongest summers I have seen for a long time. I think it was the fact that the U.K. had opened back up and put Antigua on the green list. Simultaneously, our other major source market, the U.S., had Antigua as Level One meaning very safe to travel to with regards to COVID. So, we’ve seen a bumper summer, as they say.”

Although Antigua has since experienced an uptick in COVID-19 cases, Phillips reports that, as of Jan. 2022, there are 13 flights a week arriving from London. He adds, “It is just like everywhere else, it goes up, it peaks, and it starts to come back down. We are seeing some shortfalls from the U.S. market, but the U.K. market remains pretty strong.” Working with Island Luxe, who represent Blue Waters, along with other Caribbean hotels and resorts, Phillips travelled to the United States in 2021 as part of a road show to attract travel agents. He shares, “We definitely want to make sure that we are not forgotten, and we continue to engage them even during the times when the rating isn’t as good.”

Reinvestment is ongoing for the family-owned resort, where efforts are made to maintain the original charm, while updating and improving the guest experience. Although no major projects have been completed during the pandemic, Blue Waters has endeavored to keep the resort at its best. As Phillips recounts, “We always try to focus on our product. We think that it’s important that we keep it fresh. Our property has been around for 60 years, and when you walk through the lobby, you would never be able to tell.” Painting, adding new sun loungers, decorative cushions, and the addition of new plants and planters are some of the improvements to Blue Waters over the last year, along with deep cleaning throughout. “It is amazing what a quart of paint can do,” says Phillips. “We tried to just enhance and beautify our public spaces.”

Another area of focus was on a series of pathways which wind through the property, leading guests through lush gardens as they move through the resort. “Our pathways were starting to look really old, and really tattered,” Phillips explains, “So, we did some work there. If you traverse this property, that is one of the great features, the walkways and pathways that facilitate walking through our amazing gardens.”

Low density lighting was added as part of the improvements to these walkways, along with landscape lighting upgrades throughout the property. New pathways were also added, further enhancing the beauty and functionality of the resort. “One of the things about Blue Waters that makes it so spectacular is the fact that there is a continuous level of reinvestment into the property,” suggests Phillips, “This creates a sustainable business model because once there is reinvestment, it keeps the employees – they are able to earn and continuously make money, and they look after our guests and create these magical experiences. The guests continue to want to come to Blue Waters and that gives the money to our ownership and once again they are able to reinvest. It is this cycle of continuity, which I think is commendable.”

Although the resort currently has 170 employees, many were let go during the early days of COVID, with Blue Waters paying out severance packages at great expense to the company. When conditions improved for the resort, many of these employees were brought back. Phillips notes, “That gave us the opportunity to hire back our stars. Our strategy was to make sure that we could recruit people that had fantastic attitudes. Hire for attitude, train for skill. We augmented our stars with people that were highly self-motivated, had great attitudes, wanted to learn, irrespective of where they worked before, and their level of experience. I think that has paid great dividends, to be honest.”

Blue Waters has also taken 14 entry level rooms, which Phillips says were in a less desirable location, out of circulation. He explains, “We made a conscious decision to just take those out of the operation. We were able to lower the number of guests that we would have in-house, and that augured well for an environment where everybody was conscious about being socially distanced.” This effort was meant to allow more space for guests, without impacting their experience. Changing from primarily buffet style service to a la carte was another pandemic-related change, as well as eliminating the Kids Club, due to distancing concerns, but it has since reopened. One of the resort’s four restaurants, Bartley’s was also closed. “We actually converted that into a games room, which is very well received by our guests,” says Phillips. “We’ve got table tennis, a pool table, and a 70 inch television. It’s a cool space for guests to just get some reprieve from the sun.”

Investing in green and sustainable initiatives has been a goal of the resort, although there has been a pause in new projects during COVID. “The pandemic hasn’t given us much time to be as progressive as we would like, it’s just about survival and keeping our heads above water,” says Phillips, adding, “We will definitely continue to do all that we can to put sustainable initiatives in place and make sure we secure the environment for future generations, but I must say it has been on the back burner during this time.”

Prior to the pandemic, the resort had already implemented a water bottle initiative, and phased out plastic drinking straws. The next step will be to offer refillable bath amenities, phasing out single-use hair and skin care bottles. As for suppliers, Phillips maintains that without the unwavering support from so many of them, the resort would not be in the position it is in today. He shares, “I think it would be hard to call out one without mentioning them all. We are very grateful to our suppliers who recognized that we were in uncharted waters, and we were having a very tough time financially. I think a lot of it would not have been possible if our suppliers did not work with us during that period. We are forever grateful and thankful to them for that.”

As Blue Waters Resort & Spa moves forward, Phillips acknowledges that the resort looks to both guests and employees to guide their culture of continuous improvement. He shares, “There are three Ps but if you invest in only two, which are your Product and your People, then the third P, the Profit, comes naturally.” Employee and guest satisfaction will continue to be a high priority for the company, as they find ways to enhance the experience of their beautiful island paradise. Moving into the future, Phillips says, “We want something to hold ourselves to, and to hold our team to. Our vision is to be the premier boutique resort of choice in the Caribbean.”

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