Bequia Beach, empty of guests, keeps busy with refurbs

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An aerial view of Bequia Beach Hotel in the Grenadines.
An aerial view of Bequia Beach Hotel in the Grenadines.

Although the 58-room, two-villa Bequia Beach Hotel stands empty today due to Covid-19, there is much activity taking place within the charming boutique property, the largest on the 7-square-mile island of Bequia (pronounced BECK-way or BECK-wee).

Swedish owner and general manager Bengt Mortstedt discovered Bequia on a sailing vacation with his family in 1992. He later revisited the island, which he called a "hidden piece of paradise," and opened his hotel overlooking Friendship Bay in 2009 with 12 rooms.

Until restrictions ease in the Grenadines and connecting ports of entry in St. Vincent and Barbados, the staff is taking advantage of the closure and is busy with refurbishment and maintenance programs.

The resort's '50s retro ambiance is not changing: Decor in the small lobby features posters depicting the bygone era of Caribbean travel on now-defunct airlines, old Beatles flyers and antique suitcases stacked above the library door. But plans in process includes bedding upgrades in the guestrooms and a switch to energy-saving LED bulbs to reduce the electrical footprint.

"We have continued to upgrade our restaurant kitchen with guidance from our talented international and local chefs," said Philip Mortstedt, director of business development and the owner's son. "We try to use the time wisely to improve the property and product. "We hope this may allow for an earlier reopening in October after our traditional seasonal September closure," he said.

Keeping the staff busy and on the payroll during this shutdown has been a chief concern of Mortstedt.

"We recognize our social responsibility to the island and the local population," he said. "We retain staff on a two-weeks-on and two-weeks-off basis to help support them and pay them a reduced salary on top of government grants. We've also continued training exercises."

Bookings for November and December are coming in, as well as some for 2021 from clients who shifted their vacation plans from this year to next.

"We are confident our regular guests will return for the winter season when times are safer and everyone is tired of being inside," Mortstedt said. "We've offered flexible terms to encourage rebookings, not cancellations."

Upon her return from her first visit to the hotel last January, "when the world was a different place, travel was carefree and clients were still excited about future travel plans," Wendy Murphy, travel consultant with Frosch Travel in New York, booked a family of four for Christmas 2020.

The clients have not canceled and the reservation still stands, according to Murphy.  

New to the property this year are two villas that available for rent this coming winter season, and a third villa is under construction.

As for owner Bengt Mortstedt, his son described him as "comfortably stranded on the beach with warm turquoise water and surrounded by talented local chefs and three Swedish chefs cooking for him, experiencing Swedish food cooked the Caribbean way. What a lovely Robinson Crusoe life!"

Bengt's message for travel advisors and travelers right now: "Life has to go on. Think of all your positive memories and be prepared when this is over to create and experience some new memories with family and close friends. Live the life and travel to exotic destinations."

His son's message paraphrased John Lennon: "'Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans, so make some plans,'" he said. "Life isn't an audition."

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