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Major Puerto Rico Resort to Get Wyndham MakeoverMay 7, 2007 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
Wyndham plans $36 million renovation for Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa
The ribbon-cutting ceremony this Thursday, May 10, to unveil
the Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa,
A Wyndham Grand Resort, will mark the beginning of a nearly three-year
plan to fully transform the property in Rio Grande from a Westin resort to a
Sure, the name will change in a matter of a day, but plans
to renovate the property and give it Wyndham's signature look will take a
little time. Travel Agent recently spoke with an excited Peter Strebel,
president of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, about upgrading the property, as well
as preliminary plans for the Wyndham brand to build new properties in the
been a major component for this brand," Strebel says. "Everyone knows
the Caribbean and
are hot spots... We have a very strong growth strategy. We are currently active
in a couple of
you for now is that they will be in the Mexico/Caribbean market." Strebel
says official plans to announce new properties in the Caribbean/Mexico regions
could come in as early as one week.
Major Renovation of Rio Mar
But first, back to the
property. Strebel says there are plans for a $36 million renovation, which will
include a major makeover of the property's casino, upgrading the guest rooms
and all of the 70 suites, enhancing the lobby with new furnishings, renovating
the meeting space, both outdoor and indoor (the latter spans about 60,000
square feet) and renovating the clubhouse at the resort's golf course.
Strebel said the project as a whole will take about two to
three years to complete and will begin as early as the fall. Work on the Casino
will begin in May and will be completed as early as October. Strebel says it
still hasn't been decided whether to close the casino down entirely during the
Strebel says the resort will be given a Wyndham feel by
incorporating such brand signature products as the "Be Well" bed
ensemble, which will include all new linens, pillows, new duvets and duvet
covers, as well as signature pillows and blankets; signature items from the
Michael Graves collection, including a specially-designed coffeemaker, ice
bucket and alarm clock clock/radio/MP3 player; and an upgraded bath care line
from Bath & Body Works called True Blue.
Wyndham will be making moderate changes to the staff as
well. While Strebel says the 1,200-member staff will remain intact, Mark
Stevenson was hired as the new managing director, while a new director of sales
and marketing will be hired shortly. The current director of sales and
marketing will stay on in "a lesser capacity," Strebel says.
Stevenson is a 35-year hospitality veteran who will be
responsible for the operation of the 500-acre resort, including oversight and
management of the 1,200-members staff, golf facilities, spa, casino, food and
beverage outlets, rooms, sales and marketing.
Stevenson will begin his new role on May 10. He was
previously the general manager of The Ritz-Carlton,
From 1998 to 2005, he served as general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
Hotel Spa & Casino in
founded CMC Management Corporation, a casino and event management consulting
company, in 1997.
While living in
he served on the board of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association and
as Chairman of the Marriott Casino Cluster Committee. In addition to business
and community affiliations in Puerto Rico, he held various leadership positions
with hospitality boards throughout the
He currently serves on the board of the Nevada Hotel & Lodging
Association's resort committee. Wyndham
hotels will make improvements, including an upgraded bath care product line
from Bath & Body Works
"Mark has been a great addition," Strebel says.
"His background and his knowledge of the island will work quite well here."
Strebel says a local sales team is handling all travel agent
inquiries, setting up personal meetings and purchasing advertising in travel
"The travel agent community is a strong component for
us, so we are doing everything we can to keep them involved with
progress," Strebel says. "We've had positive feedback with everybody
we have reached out to, including a recent meeting with Liberty Travel. Wyndham
has a strong presence in the
[agents] are familiar with the brand and they like our approach."
Sprawling Resort Is Ideal for Large Groups
Fifty percent of the resort's clientele are groups, which
mainly consist of corporate incentives groups, while the other half are leisure
travelers, which can include the soft adventurer, avid golfer or spa
enthusiast. During the holidays, the resort does very well with families,
"This is one of the largest resorts in the
visa and you don't need a passport, so yes, this will definitely be one of the
flagship properties of our brand," Strebel says.
The best room is the Governor's Suite, which is one of 70
suites offered at the resort. It has its own living room, dining room and a
large balcony overlooking the ocean. Half of the resort's suites overlook the
ocean, while the other half overlook the
The 600-room Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa offers agents a
10 percent commission. Agents should contact Tina Bernard, director of leisure
sales, at 856-424-5410, for more information.
Strebel, a 25-year-lodging veteran, was named president of
Wyndham Hotels and Resorts in October of 2005, following the company's
acquisition of the brand. Among his accomplishments, Strebel directed the
launch of the company's TripRewards loyalty program, the largest of its type in
the lodging industry, which helped boost system-wide revenue per available
room, an important industry performance metric. He also oversaw four
distribution channels that deliver more than $1 billion in revenue annually.
At the Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa, clients have many
entertainment options. Golf lovers will enjoy the two championship golf courses
designed by Greg Norman and Tom and George Fazio, as well as a putting green
and driving range. There is also a large pool, 13 tennis courts and an onsite
casino. Guests can revitalize at the exclusive Mandara Spa.
Nearby, El Yunque Caribbean National Forest is full of
streams, waterfalls and panoramic views, where guests may go snorkeling or
diving. Guests may also visit Old San Juan to discover