Travel Agent recently chatted with Armando Pizzuti, a Caribbean hotelier with more than 20 years of experience working with the region’s top all-inclusive brands, to discuss his new position with the Maho Group in St. Maarten and his vision for the group’s Sonesta resorts.
The Maho Group, a well-known leisure, real estate, and resort company in St. Maarten, recently announced the promotion of Pizzuti in June to vice president of hotel operations. In addition to his general manager position at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino, Pizzuti will now oversee and direct operations at both Sonesta Maho and the company’s sister property, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino in Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
Pizzuti, who has worked with such all-inclusive giants as Sandals Resorts and AMResorts, was brought into to help smooth over Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino’s transition from an EP to an all-inclusive. That move was made roughly three months ago. Its sister property, the 257-room Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino, already is an all-inclusive.
“In all of my 20 years of working with all-inclusives, this one just looked and felt very different,” says Pizzuti of Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino. “Usually, there are these big walls surrounding all-inclusives, not really encouraging guests to leave the property. But at this hotel? There are no big walls, it's open air. And come 11 p.m. every night, there is this mass exodus of 200 something guests. They are going to take a stroll nearby, or check out some clubs or bars. You don’t see that at most all inclusives.”
Pizzuti will oversee a $3 million investment of Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino, scheduled for a November completion. The money will be spent toward enhancing the guest’s all-inclusive experience. Additional enhancements will be done at Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino. Pizzuti’s passion for the industry runs deep.
“As far as this money is concerned, we are using it for a new restaurant, a new bar, more entertainment facilities and more,” Pizzuti says. “When you go from an EP to an all-inclusive, the first thing you have to do is increase your offerings, especially as far as restaurants and entertainment go.”
|The Maho Group's Armando Pizzuti|
And with more all-inclusives, comes more families, something that is beginning to change the face of the St. Maarten clientele, Pizzuti says.
“Sonesta and St. Maarten in general is really starting to attract more families,” Pizzuti says. “This used to be a destination made up of about 75 percent men looking to gamble and party. It was basically the Las Vegas of the Caribbean. And now you see more and more children around. The main thing we have seen at (Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino) since we converted to an all-inclusive is way more families.”
In fact, Pizzuti says there are so many families coming to Sonesta now that he is considering changing the configuration of the rooms.
“Right now, most of our rooms (at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino), are made up of King beds, but then we have about 30-35 rooms that have double beds," he says. "Judging by the booking patterns as of late, we are having more and more stays that include three people or more. We are getting more families.”
With more than 30 years of experience in the area, The Maho Group in St. Maarten owns and operates a variety of hotels, vacation ownership resorts, casinos, and real estate ventures. The Maho Group’s portfolio includes Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino, Casino Royale, Golden Casino, Diamond Casino, AquaMarina, BueMarine Residences, Maho Village, and Royal Islander Club La Plage and La Terrasse.