Friday’s front page news that the building permits for the new Planet Hollywood St. Maarten Beach Resort were approved met with mixed reactions on social media. Some applauded the breakthrough, while others lamented what they saw as another concrete structure on the beach obstructing the view.
The project is on the site of the former Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort that was damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Irma and later demolished, so one cannot speak of adding a building. It will, of course, be considerably higher with 14 storeys, but in view of the limited space between the shore and Little Bay Road, this was obviously thought necessary to make the venture feasible in terms of numbers. People who find the design too bulky and lacking in Caribbean flair should keep in mind the need to make it very storm-resistant as well.
With 450 rooms, the property owned by Canada-based Sunwing Travel Group – once completed – will no doubt become a major player in the island’s hospitality industry. They intend to employ close to 1,000 persons, providing welcome jobs of which 97 per cent are supposedly to be filled by locals.
This development should encourage further growth of Canada as an increasingly significant source-market over the years. A press conference held by authorities about detaining suspects in the killing of a Canadian man during an apparent attempted robbery (see related story) was also helpful in that sense.
Of great importance is getting a brand-name regarding visitors’ accommodations; something the destination can really use. The last international hotel chain to come was The Westin at Dawn Beach, which remains closed without a known reopening date.
Of course, the new resort will be all-inclusive, as that’s the current trend also seen at – for example – Sonesta Maho Beach and Ocean Point. However, this doesn’t mean the guests won’t go out and spend money as experience has shown.
The prospect of expanding the room inventory within 18 months is certainly an attractive one while the country’s tourism economy continues to recover. It also makes getting the reconstruction of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) going sooner rather than later all that more urgent.