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Almond Resorts to invest US$40 million in St. James Morgan Bay

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Friday, May 06, 2005 - Over $US forty (40) million dollars is to be pumped into Saint Lucia’s tourism plant in the coming months following a change in the management and ownership of St. James Club at Choc formerly the Wyndham Morgan Bay.

On Friday, May 6, 2005 Chairman and Managing Director of Almond Resorts Mr. Ralph Taylor was on island to announce details of the new plans for the hotel. He says the new property to be called Almond/Morgan Bay, will benefit from the strong international branding and quality standards being brought to the table by Almond Resorts, which is an all inclusive chain.

The new arrangement takes effect on May 31st and will see a brief closure of the property for major renovations. These, according to Taylor, will include expanding the facility from its current 240 room capacity to 340 rooms. “We intend to take the hotel to a different level in terms of the quality of the product. Major expansions will take place in terms of the central facilities, adding a number of swimming pools, softening the product by adding gardens and three main restaurants, boasting French/Creole cuisine, secondly continental cuisine and the thirdly specializing in seafood,” says Taylor. Other new amenities which will include a start-of-the-art kid’s play area are designed to create market buoyancy, and attract a new category of clients to the island.

Taylor says Saint. Lucia was top of the pile in terms of logical choices for investing outside of Barbados. “When we look at the Eastern Caribbean, we take Barbados and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean, the next country which in my mind is going to really penetrate the international market as far as tourism is concerned is St. Lucia. We did a lot of research on St. Lucia and we like what we see. We like the fact that St. Lucia has a good work force, the cost of operation is reasonable and the Government of St. Lucia we have found to be excellent in terms of the negotiations that we have had with them. The facilities and incentives that have been offered under the 2007 Cricket World Cup Act have been outstanding,” says the veteran Caribbean businessman.

The Barbados-based investor says the transition phase will see workers receiving full severance benefits and other entitlements prior to the closure. Once operations resume, Taylor says 99% of existing staff if not 100% of workers will be re-employed with the property once they meet the new recruitment criteria. He says scores of additional persons will also be employed as the hotel will be significantly expanded under the renovation and upgrading phase.

The Almond Resorts investment is expected to significantly enhance the foreign exchange earnings of Saint. Lucia. The company currently operates two major hotels in Barbados, employing over eight hundred (800) persons and is among a select small group of companies involved in tourism, publicly traded on the Barbados Stock exchange.

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