The ritz-carlton hotel company has spent more than the last decade cementing itself as a Caribbean powerhouse. With a new property in Turks and Caicos slated for December as well as three more resorts in the region scheduled to open by 2010, Travel Agent decided a conversation was long overdue with the man behind this luxury brand's latest Caribbean surge.
Ezzat Coutry, senior vice president for The Ritz-Carlton Company, L.L.C.
We chatted with Ezzat Coutry, senior vice president for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, to explore how these Caribbean destinations are chosen. And Coutry, who oversees all aspects of the 21 Ritz-Carlton hotels currently open and those under development in the Southeast, Caribbean, South America and Mexico, was happy to tell us.
"We find a location and go from there," Coutry explains. "We have an annual strategic meeting with most of our senior team [usually within the first quarter of the year]. We focus on areas where we want to be and will rule out areas where we don't want to be. This goes for our international destinations as well as our domestic locations."
From that meeting, Coutry and his colleagues develop a wish list of sorts, a roster of 10 possible locations the company will target for that year. The destinations are made up of locations that Ritz-Carlton either scouted itself or that developers have brought to the company's attention.
When it comes to the Caribbean, three major factors are considered, Coutry says.
"On an island, the first thing we look at are the beach locations," he explains. "It has to be the right beach, has to be the right size and obviously has to be beautiful. The next thing we look at is golf. Is there an area nearby for a beautiful golf course? These are both factors that need to be part of the Ritz product in the Caribbean.
"We also look at places that can afford the average rate that we require," he adds, noting the second consideration. "Our hotels require a lot of money for development, so we need to be sure that there will be an opportunity for great return."
And the last factor?
"That's airlift," he says. "Is there adequate airlift from both U.S. and European destinations?"
And it's that last factor alone that played a major role in the Ritz-Carlton's decision to open a resort in St. Lucia in 2010, since both European and American carriers travel there, mainly Virgin Atlantic Airways and American Airlines, respectively.
"What attracted us to the project in St. Lucia is that half of the visitors to the island come from the U.S. and the other half come from the U.K. and Ireland," Coutry says. That is obviously important, because of the struggling U.S. dollar.
Once Ritz-Carlton agrees to develop, it begins to prepare an L.O.I., or letter of intent. This includes specific design details, as well as other logistics, such as whether the property will include residential units, condos, hotel rooms or all three. It takes anywhere from 60 to 100 days to get this material drafted and signed.
After that, the next stage is construction, followed by a grand opening— followed by agents making more money.[PAGE-BREAK]
Here’s a roundup of existing and future properties in The Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Caribbean & Mexico collection:
In 2006, The Ritz-Carlton assumed management of The Abaco Club on Winding Bay in The Bahamas and opened
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica opened in 2000. The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino opened in 1997. The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas opened in 1996.
Molasses Reef, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, debuts in December. The Ritz-Carlton, St. Lucia, The Ritz-Carlton, Rose Island, Bahamas, The Ritz-Carlton, Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic and The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City are all opening in 2010.