Wyndham continues expansion across region By Gay Nagle Myers / February 20, 2003 Share 1 -- SAN JUAN -- There is no stopping the forward march of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in the Caribbean these days. The hotel firm, reportedly now the largest U.S.-based hotel owner/operator in the region -- with 11 resorts totaling more than 4,400 rooms -- is eyeing additional properties and destinations.In Puerto Rico alone, Wyndham owns or manages five properties with 2,500 rooms and is in negotiations to operate the 156-room Martineau Bay Resort in Vieques, in which Rosewood Hotels & Resorts formerly held a minority ownership stake.Richard Cortese, regional vice president for Wyndham International, said that the company's goals for 2003 are "to sell non-Wyndham-branded assets, reduce debt and grow the Wyndham brand."Although Cortese said various forecasts for 2003 describe the year as a "difficult" one, "we expect to do very well."He reported that bookings during the recent holiday season were "excellent.""There is a pent-up demand for travel, especially in the leisure market, and we saw a return to the business levels that we had known before," he said.Although Cortese expects first-quarter results to prove him right, the threat of the U.S. going to war with Iraq clouds the picture considerably.Cortese said Wyndham's marketing and promotional focus would "probably shift from the affluent leisure traveler to the individual corporate traveler."Last year, Wyndham poured more than $20 million into property renovations in the Caribbean and added three properties to its portfolio.Here is a rundown: • The $6 million renovation project at the recently branded 570-room, 10-story Wyndham Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino in San Juan included new interiors and wireless capabilities in the hotel's two ballrooms, a redesign of the Plaza Club for the four-floor concierge category of rooms and new bathrooms in all guest rooms.• More than $5 million was invested in a capital improvement program at Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa and the adjacent Las Casitas Village in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.Rob Gunther, the property'sgeneral manager, said the resort has a high rate of guest return, and "the guest experience is our focus."The 918 rooms at El Conquistador were upgraded, including the resort's 21 deluxe suites, the three-bedroom villas in La Marina Village and the oversize suites at Las Casitas.Opening in March is the Presidential Suite, featuring a mahogany four-poster bed and armoire, marble floors, two oversize bathrooms and a 52-inch, flat-screen TV, equipped with "sensurround" sound.Gunther said that high-speed Internet access is available in all rooms and suites, and wireless access is available in meetings rooms.The Golden Door Spa installed a koi pond at the spa's entrance as well as new, hand-finished front doors.The resort invested more than $1.6 million on vehicles to transport guests from the airport to the property.• The garden lanai suites at the Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino were redone for $2.5 million.More than $7 million was spent at the property in the past three years, including a room redo in the Towers.• Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, opened its $1.5 million Journeys Spa last year, capping a $7 million, 18-month renovation project at the 300-room, inclusive property.• Wyndham Aruba Beach Resort & Casino unveiled its new United Nations Plaza park.Rob Smith, general manager, said the name was selected because "Aruba is home to more than 60 different ethnic origins and receives visitors from around the world."Other enhancements at the 481-room property on Palm Beach include a fourth high-speed elevator and a women's boutique.Planned for this year are four new treatment rooms at the health center and a groundbreaking for the new, 8,500-square-foot ballroom.• Wyndham Rose Hall Resort & Country Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica, will debut its spa in March and its casino in June.• Sunshine Suites Resort by Wyndham on Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, which joined the Wyndham family a year ago, "represents the other end of the pricing spectrum on Grand Cayman," according to Bob Duffey, director of marketing.Guests at the 132-suite resort are given beach chairs on wheels for use at Seven Mile Beach across the road.Opening this month is the resort's open-air Sunshine Bar & Grill.For golfers, Sunshine Suites offers a new golf package at the Links at Safe Haven course, located next to the resort. The package features guaranteed tee times and rates discounted by 27% for 18 holes.