Discovery at Marigot Bay
Honourable Prime Minister, Honourable Government Ministers, Distinguished Guests, we are very honoured that so many people have turned out to celebrate this important milestone with us.
The ground-breaking is an important milestone in the Discovery project. For Judith and I, it is also an important milestone in the realisation of a Dream that started here in Marigot Bay in 1981. Captivated by the beauty and tranquillity of Marigot Bay, or maybe it was just too many rum punches in the Hurricane Hole Bar, we convinced ourselves that buying the old Hurricane Hole Hotel would make a wonderful retirement project.
What started as a simple concept began to change when we realised that our love affair with Marigot was shared by almost everyone who had ever been here. Marigot has a spiritual dimension that captivates many people and that spiritual dimension still lives on despite the decline of the bay over the past few years.
Marigot has the potential not only to regain the position it once held as a leading tourism destination in St Lucia, but to become a leading destination for the whole Caribbean – one of those places known worldwide in its own right – irrespective of whether it is in St Lucia, Antigua, St Kitts, …..or wherever. When Marigot Bay reaches that point of recognition a whole new tourism markets will open up both for us and for St Lucia.
So much for the Dream what of the reality?
Discovery is the foundation for our plans in Marigot Bay but it is by no means the whole. We need to look at the whole plan and it has three main components:
Taking these in turn:
1. DISCOVERY SPA HOTEL:
Discovery has been a long time coming which has led to a certain amount of cynicism in the St Lucian community but as responsible developers our commitment was that we would not start until completion was fully funded and guaranteed not an easy task over the past few years, given the traumas of 9/11, the US recession and the decline in the hospitality industry generally.
The fact that we are here today owes much to John Jones and his French property development company, FIDEI, who became 50% partners in the venture nearly two years ago and have provided the guarantees which have made the financing possible.
To reduce the financial risks we configured Discovery as an apartment hotel – a new concept in St Lucia – which is proving enormously successful.
Discovery will contain the full range of bars, restaurants, spa, pools, fitness centre etc associated with a five-star facility, but the accommodation is being built as 57 luxury apartments for private sale. By lock-off arrangements these apartments convert into about 120 hotel units in a mix of conventional hotel rooms and suites. When the owners are not in occupation they receive an income from the room revenues of the hotel.
To date we have sold 39 of the apartments – nearly 70% - off the plans at prices which set new standards for St Lucian real estate. The buyers have been mostly from the UK it is one of our regrets that no St Lucian has bought one – despite our initial offer of a 10% discount to the first St Lucian buyer. They are indeed a wonderful investment for anyone and we have raised prices by over 40% since the launch.
We have a 3D model of the hotel which can be viewed at our Sales Office in Rodney Bay.
Once the Honourable Prime Minister has shown Johnston how to turn a sod this afternoon, we should have Discovery finished and fully open by late 2005.
2. THE MARINA VILLAGE
In years past, Marigot Bay was a favourite destination of many of the high-end Caribbean cruising and charter yachts. However, the small size of the marina, its limited facilities, and the recent decline in local services has led to a progressive drop out of many of these high-spending visitors.
The good news is that Marigot is not forgotten by the yachting community. We have actively canvassed these yachts at Caribbean yacht shows and regattas and they do want to come back if the facilities they need are in place
Working closely with our tenants – The Moorings Company – we are embarked on a programme to rebuild the docks and jetties, expanding the capacity from 26 berths to about 60 in a combination of fixed berths and mooring buoys and, importantly, under our new contract with Moorings, over 60% of those berths will be kept open for the use of cruising yachts.
As you will have seen on your arrival, construction of the new docks is about 80% complete. We plan to move swiftly to build a new marina village on the site of the existing Moorings building. A collection of small Caribbean-style buildings containing about 20 retail and service facilities – boutiques, chandlery, banking and postal facilities, laundry and bath-house, provisioning supermarket etc, everything yacht visitors want!
And finally as newcomers to St Lucia, I would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement we’ve received from some of the longer-established hoteliers here, from the Tourist Board, and from the Government Ministries. Indeed we are delighted to see that some of you are here to share this celebration with us today.
Our hope is that Discovery and the Marina will help to make St Lucia even more attractive to visitors on both sides of the Atlantic and that we can all work together to keep it Simply Beautiful.
Honourable Prime Minister, Honourable Government Ministers, distinguished guests, Thank you for your time and attention.