A senior official of Marriott International says that St. Vincent is “one of the most beautiful and unique Caribbean islands” and the state-owned hotel that the company will manage at Mt Wynne is an important project for the country.
Bojan Kumer, Marriott International’s vice president for hotel development — Caribbean and Latin America, told a signing ceremony at the Mt Wynne, on Tuesday, that the St. Vincent Marriot will be the “the first internationally-branded, first class hotel on the mainland”.
The government has borrowed US$50 million to build the 250-room hotel, construction of which is expected to begin this year and continue through 2022.
Marriott will manage the hotel under their brand name and Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves told the ceremony that the management contract is “something in which they are coming in to lend us their experience, to lend their talent, to lend their expertise to the running of the facility”.
“We are very excited about this project and about our partnership with the government of St. Vincent via the National Properties Ltd.”
He noted that the hotel will also have several restaurants, bars, swimming pools, tennis courts and first class meeting facilities.
“This hotel should set, actually, the new standard for all future developments in St. Vincent and our goal is to be mindful of the sustainability and the opportunity to obtain the LEED certification upon the completion of this project.”
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification provides independent verification of a building or neighbourhood’s green features, allowing for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of resource-efficient, high-performing, healthy, cost-effective buildings.
Kumer said SVG, with its natural beautify, is the perfect place for a new Marriott and a great new location to offer to their 140 million Bonvoy loyalty reward members.
“When this hotel opens, we will operate in more than 140 countries in the world and we will employ approximately one million employees in all of our franchised and managed properties,” he said.
“This hotel will employ approximately 250 to 300 employees and these employees will actually have the opportunity to work for the largest hotel chain in the world and will have a tremendous opportunity to grow their professional careers and travel the world.
“We are looking forward to see this hotel open its doors and welcome the first guest in a couple of years,” Kumer said.
Meanwhile, addressing the ceremony, Minister of Tourism, Sport and Culture Cecil McKie spoke highly of the partnership between Marriott and his government.
“What collaboration! What a marriage! St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Marriott. Put your hands together for that marriage,” McKie said.
He said the arrangement will add significantly to what the SVG can achieve in tourism, sports and culture and that he was happy that the country could tick another box as it relates to the development of its tourism industry.
The Marriott is coming to SVG at a time when the government is positioning the country as an important player in the tourism industry in the region, the tourism minister said.
“Our recent hosting of the sustainable tourism conference has allowed us to lay out our case to fast track our development. This afternoon gives us another opportunity to do so.”
He spoke of the Argyle International Airport, which opened in February 2017.
“We have said, ‘Build it and they will come.’ The Argyle International Airport was built, the airlines are coming and so are the rooms.”
He said that over the past four to five years, SVG has recorded consistent growth in visitor arrival figures.
Year-on-year air arrivals have increased by 5.8%, 3.9%, 4.4 % and by 6.7% for the first seven months of 2019.
By yacht, the year-on-year increases are 3%, 1%, 8%, 11%, and by 7.5% for the first seven months of 2019.
For the cruise sector, the figures are 6%, 21%, 75%, 25%, and 6.4% for the first seven months of 2019.
McKie said that annually, SVG welcomes just over 360,000 visitors.
“We have worked hard to realise these numbers. Discussions, negotiations, presentations, engaging our diaspora, road shows, conference and events and increasing our visibility and intensifying our presence in the market place so that collectively we are able to yield these positive results,” the tourism minister said.
“The construction and presence of a Marriott in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will certainly add significant value to each and all of the processes I just identified and would cater to providing an even greater attraction to the destination while providing a solution to the ever growing demand for room stock…
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we are wise for attracting the Marriott to our shore. The Marriott has made an excellent choice in coming to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We’ll both be better placed for embracing each other along this journey,” he said.