by SUMMIE HAZLEWOOD
SANDY LANE HOTEL is seeking to reposition itself as the premier luxury hotel in the world.
This according to the new chief executive officer (CEO) Michael Pownall, who was speaking to the Press yesterday at the St James hotel.
He said the owners of the luxury property, which was renovated in 2001, had a long-term vision for the hotel that was as much about quality as it was about making money because they were "so deep and so passionate" about the hotel and the island.
"They really have this vision to make it the premier luxury hotel in the entire world," the CEO said.
Pownall, a Briton with 22 years' experience in the hotel business, said the 112-room hotel had performed quite strongly for the second year in a row.
"The overall business for Sandy Lane has been very, very strong this year," he said.
He added they had just a "tiny point something below" 80 per cent occupancy, while last year it was around 78.8 per cent.
This, Pownall, said was impressive when compared to hotels internationally because having a hotel with an average in the low 70s was considered to be doing very well.
Looking ahead, he said for January the hotel was already booked up to 82 per cent, 89 per cent for February, 75 per cent for March, 65 per cent for April and 40 per cent for May.
Pownall said they were busy ten out of the 12 months each year, with June and September being the only weak months.
To combat these two slow months, the CEO said they would be trying to expand the American market, which only accounted for 25 per cent of their business.
"I definitely believe that the US market can grow substantially for us and particularly in those months that I've highlighted - June and September. The Americans are certainly well able to visit Barbados in those months," Pownall said.
To attract new business from this market, he said Sandy Lane would have to think of partnering with airlines to offer packages but it would also have to look at it in terms of the golf market.
The hotel boasts of two 18-hole golf courses, Country Club and The Green Monkey, and a nine-hole course called the Old Nine.
Sandy Lane was recently awarded the Golf World Cup, slated to come off December 4 to 10 next year.
"The golf message is an important one for Sandy Lane for those months. I also think it is a very, very worthwhile market to pursue in general and that is why we are particularly delighted that the Barbados Tourism Authority has thought similarly and underwritten the world cup of golf," Pownall said.
Eric Mapp, resident manager, told the DAILY NATION targeting the golf market required a more subtle approach than targeting a particular country.
"You go to one of the tournaments and try to convince the captain to come play at your facility. You don't put out an ad saying come play golf here," Mapp said.
He added they already had made some contact in England but now needed an "in" in the American market.
Pownall also said the Golf World Cup was a more significant event for the hotel in terms of preparation than the Cricket World Cup in 2007 as they would be doing some upgrades on the golf course itself, especially the bunkers, to make it more challenging to golfers.
The rates for 2005-2006 range from US$850 per night for a basic room to a villa from US$8 000 to US$25 000 a night.