Onsite: Spice Island Better Post-Hurricane, Booking Engine on Horizon

NEW YORK-In an interview at an event hosted by Spice Island Beach Resort, its chairman and managing director, Sir Royston O. Hopkin, told Travel Agent that since the hotel reopened in 2005 after taking a pounding from Hurricane Ivan, its clientele have become more upscale. In fact, Hopkin says, the resort upgraded from four- to five-star status when it renovated after Ivan demolished nearly 70 percent of it. In that sense, the disaster was a blessing in disguise, Hopkin says.

"I knew we were getting hit and my only hope was that we would get hit really hard," he says. "I knew that if you get hit with a good one, you can re-energize and I would be able to build the vision I had all along." Hopkin expanded Spice Island Beach Resort from 56 to 68 suites, pouring about $12 million total into refurbishments. The property--which was closed for 15 months after the hurricane--books about 15 percent of its guests through U.S. travel agents, with its strongest markets in the New York tristate area, according to Hopkin. He says he is looking for ways to increase agent business for his resort and plans to launch an online booking engine within the next two to three months.

"We realize that travel agents are the main source of business for us," he says, noting that Europe is still the property's main market for travel agent bookings, "and we need to increase that level of business, especially in the U.S." Visit [http://www.spiceislandbeachresort.com]. (JP)