Robert Logan, general manager of Sandy Lane in Barbados, is in an enviable position. His 112-room, upscale property on the island's west coast was 100% occupied on Feb. 16 and for a few days on either side of the date at the full rack that ranged from $1,000 to $4,200 per room, per night, double. Rates at the suites and penthouses were far higher.
What's the secret, Logan was asked. "We have a high repeat base of business. For example, in January, 20% of the guests who were departing rebooked and paid in full for next January. We have a loyal, outstanding staff, and we have a very strong brand."
Maintaining the integrity of the brand is key to insuring continued guest satisfaction, according to Logan. "Service, value and packages that offer enhanced value and incentives and that cater to niche markets are crucial to the guest experience," he said.
Given today's economic scenario, with bad news crashing like waves on a beach on a daily basis, Logan said that "no one knows what will happen each day. We continue to offer value and service, which is what our guests have come to expect. Barbados as a whole is softer right now than a year ago, and I think the worst is yet to come. There's a very short lead time on bookings, like seven to 14 days, but I am convinced that people need to break away from the bad news pummeling them on all sides."
Visibility in the marketplace, communications with the local tourist authority and "hard work" are strategies for staying afloat in the current climate, according to Logan.
Logan was the general manager of Raffles Singapore prior to joining Sandy Lane last September. "When I was at Raffles Singapore, I did not think there was another property that could exude the same character, but I was wrong. I found it at Sandy Lane," he said.
Sandy Lane originally opened in 1961 on the site of an old sugar plantation. In 1970 the hotel was sold to Trusthouse Forte; in 1996, it was purchased by a group of Irish investors, who embarked on a massive renovation that culminated in the March 2001 reopening.
The resort closed for five weeks last fall for an upgrade that included new soft goods in the rooms and public spaces, a spruce-up of the spa and the gutting of the Bajan Blue restaurant to transform it into an open kitchen with a new culinary program where guests have more interaction with the chef.
Guestrooms average 900 square feet. Amenities include airport transfers in Bentleys; valet and concierge services; two designer, 18-hole golf courses and one nine-hole course, with carts equipped with GPSs that offer golfers three-dimensional layouts of each hole; a 47,000-square-foot spa, which Sandy Lane says one of the region's largest; four restaurants; five bars; a five-bedroom villa that opened in December 2002; and a Tree House Club, pool and spa for kids ages 3 to 12. Teens have their own facility at the Den.
For details, visit www.sandylane.com.