With a multimillion-dollar spa set to open at its Aruba resort in late September and the debut of its resort on St. Martin next summer, Radisson Hotels and Resorts' flagship Caribbean brand is spreading its wings.

"Our goal is to establish the flagship Caribbean Radissons as a AAA Four Diamond brand and to expand to other islands," said Francis Purvey, director of sales and marketing for Radisson Resorts Aruba and St. Martin.

That expansion plan could include resorts on Guadeloupe and Martinique, according to Purvey.

Parent company Carlson Hotels Worldwide owns and operates the Aruba and St. Martin resorts. The three Radisson properties in the Bahamas, Belize and Puerto Rico are franchise properties not part of the flagship expansion.

The 358-room Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino already has earned its Four Diamond citation and as such "required a professional spa facility as part of its guest offerings. The spa is a purpose-filled project that has no comparison or competition on Aruba," Purvey said.

The $5.2 million, 13,000-square-foot, oceanfront Larimar Spa, which derives its name from an aqua-colored, semi-precious stone indigenous to the Caribbean, will feature five patio gardens for open-air treatments, a fitness center facing the Caribbean, one couple's suite, lounges, two plunge pools and nine indoor treatment rooms.

The Radisson Aruba, formerly the Golden Tulip, is the site of the first hotel on Palm Beach and as such "has the best location," Purvey said.

Flanking the 14-acre resort on one side is the Occidental Grand Aruba (the former Allegro-branded property); on the other side is the Riu Aruba Grand (the former Aruba Grand Beach Resort & Casino).

Radisson acquired the property in 1995, then closed it in 1999 and 2000 for a $55 million renovation project. The new spa is the capstone to that rebuilding project.

However, as with most properties, renovation is an ongoing process, and Purvey said that all guest rooms will be "totally renovated" in 2007.

Also in the works is the conversion of two floors in the Aruba Tower to the Plaza Club with concierge services, a lounge and 42-inch, flat-screen TVs in the rooms.

High-speed Internet access is available in every room. Wireless Internet access is available in select areas throughout the resort. More than 65% of the rooms feature the custom-designed Select Comfort Sleep Number beds.

"Guests love them," Purvey said. "They can adjust mattress firmness and support at the touch of a button. We'll have the beds in 80% of the rooms by the end of the year."

Also new is an American Plan option offering three meals a day. Guests who select it wear special ID bracelets.

"We have different meal plans to cater to individual requests," Purvey said. "Even though Aruba has many fine restaurants, some of our guests want to take all their meals at the resort, so we offer them that option."

Radisson's three restaurants include the Sunset Grille, one of only two on the island to garner a AAA Four Diamond Award.

The resort's Express Check-In, another new feature, allows guests to check in up to seven days before arriving at the property.

"There's a separate, fast line for them to pick up their room keys," Purvey said.

Target markets include the family segment, which accounts for 25% of total business during the summer season and higher during the holiday periods; honeymooners and repeat customers make up approximately 50% of total business, according to Purvey.

Agents and operators, described by Purvey as "critical components of our business," are responsible for more than half of all bookings.

The Radisson Resort St. Martin will unfurl its flag next summer on the site of the former Le Meridien resort near Port Lonvilliers and Anse Marcel on the north coast.

"The property will open with the original 250 rooms, of which 62 will be suites," Purvey said. "We're not planning a big room expansion, but there are plans for Radisson's second Larimar spa."

The adjacent marina will offer 150 slips accommodating yachts of up to 90 feet in length.

Two "trendy" restaurants will open at the resort, and a new meal plan will include restaurants in nearby Grand Case, known as the island's gastronomic capital.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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