By Carrema Lewis
Stepping into the Spice Island Beach Resort on the world famous Grand Anse beach, the visitor is overtaken by the warm welcome from the staff and its owner Sir Royston Hopkin also the physical structure of the hotel.
Known internationally as the leading hotelier in Grenada, Sir Royston and his wife Lady …. invited members of the local media last week Wednesday to get a first hand glimpse into the new look Spice Island Beach Resort that underwent a multi-million dollar upgrade.
He told the assembled media persons that the upgrade to the resort was done primarily to please his many guests and at the same time to live up to the standards of a Five Star hotel.
All of the resort’s eating tables were redone in marble and as Sir Royston proudly stated, “You cant have people paying all this money and have them eating on normal tables.”
One of the major developments in the resort is the enhancement of the Spa to bring it in line with any around the globe.
“…We injected a lot of money into it (the Spa) because I listened to my guests and even though it was a nice space with four rooms, it was not up to the standard of a five star hotel,” he said.
“So when I brought in my designers from last year, I said ,I need to spend some dollar bills to give my spa a (look and feel) in keeping with the resort that I was continuing to visualize”:, he told the local media.
All the rooms in the new look Spice Island Beach Resort have been redone to a different theme. Each room is decorated with local paintings, which is geared at giving them their own individuality.
As a proud Grenadian, Sir Royston stated that he had to put up a fight with the foreign designers who wanted to give the room a more North American feeling.
“Our designers are totally against it (the local paintings in the rooms) but I resisted it because years ago I got Susan Maine to paint all local paintings in my rooms but they want to take it out and bring all Miami looking things…”, he said.
He added: “…You have to put down your foot at certain points. It cost me a fortune years ago (for the paintings) but they (the foreign designers) don’t understand (our) culture,” he explained.
Employing in excess of 200 persons, the much improved Spice Resort has 10 suites – four Royal Suites and six Luxury Suites.
All the suites have their own LCD flat screen TV’s, Toasters, Mini bars, Coffee Makers and many bottles of liquor.
Sir Royston spoke of his commitment and dedication over nearly 50 years of being in the tourism business to always ensure that the surroundings of the plant are always maintained.
“I have 15-20 people in maintenance alone, you cant get away with nothing because if I pass anytime and I see a little break I’m kicking smoke because people are not accepting that, there’re no compromises,” he said.
According to the island’s premier hotelier, this is largely responsible for the frequent top ranking given to his resort by guests in international magazines and the number of repeats.
During the month of February and March, 50-55% of the guests fall into the category of repeaters at Spice.
With an air of confidence, he said these people who are rather “wealthy” can easily afford to go to other exquisite locations like The Maldives, Seychelles, and Dubai but choose to come back to his resort because “we are unique and …. have a knack for excellence”.
Sir Royston defended his rate of US$3000.00 per day charged to the average person who stays at Spice and enjoys the luxury including the Grand Anse beach.
“Quite expensive but why. It is doing the best because you (are) catering to a niche and a niche that only would stay among their own and that’s how it is”, he quipped but quickly added: “…You can’t want to play mas and fraid powder”.
With an employee list of 210 and 64 top rooms available to guests, Spice contributes up to $240,000.00 each month in VAT receipts to the government coffers.
“What I’m paying in VAT is what a small hotel is not turning over (in a month) so when people talk about rates, you have (high) rates if you could get it (and) if you get it (the high rates) that’s what the island needs,’ he said.
According to Sir Royston, if everything goes according to plan by the middle of this year, he would inject another $2.5 million into the hotel as part of the regular upgrading.
The man with several Caribbean awards under his belt spoke quite candidly about the notion that the rates charged by Spice are extremely high and is a deterrent to locals.
Denying this, Sir Royston said he has a special rates for his countrymen.
“I have a local rate where a lot of Grenadians come in and pay $980 a day for a room for two people.”
“I have all this things in place for you Grenadian nationals. I have Caricom rates but when you get to the real rates … up to US $3000 a day but these are (paid by) people who fly in here with their jets, they come, they pay and they leave”.
Another reason he pointed towards for the seemingly high rates charged by his 5-Star resort is the quality of the staff including a permanent Human Resource Manager, 210 well-trained employees and 64 rooms to always maintain and keep in top shape and condition.
“…So when you hear people talk about rates are high, Spice Island rates are high, there’s a reason for that,” he said.
Sir Royston also addressed the thorny issue of tour operators who are allowed to sell tours at his hotel but often complain about the commission that he is asking in return.
He said that because of the commission requested, the tour operators have chosen to launch complaint against him with the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association (GHTA).
“I spending all the money to market (and) when you (the tour operator) sell a tour I want my 10% commission. They go to (the) Hotel Association and they wrote me (about this). I say (to GHTA) I own this (hotel), if I allow you (tour operator) to come and park in front of me after I do all my marketing for my hotel, (and) you want to sell (tours), you will pay me my 10% commission,” he remarked.
Sir Royston alluded to the fact that the same tour operator cannot do the same at the newly opened Sandals La Source resort because they are completely locked out.
He went on: “They (Sandals) lock your tail out. I (am) allowing you to survive but if I allowing you (to) survive, you will pay me my 10% because you can’t go in Sandals, you can only go to check to see if the guests are ok because he (Sandals) has island routes which he sells but I still want to connect (with local tour operators) and keep the thing going.
“… But every now and then you institute something, they try to fight you. I am not spending all my money, discounting, doing all kinds of things to get people in my hotel and you just coming in and selling all the tours,” the hotelier told THE NEW TODAY with a grimace on the face.