As the May 31 closing date nears for the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Country Club in Dorado, Puerto Rico, a question remains unanswered: What will become of the resort?

Owner Richard Schulze, president of the Dorado Beach Hotel Corp., which owns the resort, cited the expense of renovations and upkeep on the 48-year-old facility as key reasons for shuttering the property.

Schulze said that no decision had been reached regarding the future of the resort, although a number of alternatives are under study.

The decision to close is a consequence of the shortcomings of a facility that was designed 50 years ago, he said. The facilities no longer fulfill the expectations and requirements of our guests.

Hyatt had managed the 262-room resort, its sole property in Puerto Rico, since 1985. The nearby Hyatt Hacienda Del Mar Vacation Club Resort is a timeshare operation not affected by the resorts closure.

The Hyatts golf club and four golf courses, which were recently revamped, will continue to operate.

Hyatt is hopeful we will be back in Puerto Rico at a future date, and we are committed to regaining our presence as soon as the opportunity arises, said Carlos Cabrera, Hyatts senior vice president of field operations, Florida and the Caribbean.

The Dorado announcement in late March, which caught tourism officials by surprise, was later described as sad news for us and an unfortunate situation for Puerto Rico by Terestella Gonzalez Denton, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.

Denton said the Dorado closing does not reflect upon the current health of our tourism industry, which will see 5,000 more hotel rooms by the end of 2008, either open or in the planning stages.

She cited hotel occupancies in the San Juan area that ran at 98% several times during the winter season as examples of the robust state of the industry.

The Hyatts occupancies were high, and the property had a steadfast following, she said. It is located in a prime touristic zone, and we will only support a future development there that is strictly related to hotels. Also, any new operation has to hire the same number or more employees who had worked at Hyatt Dorado.

The layoff of 800 Hyatt employees, many of whom had been at Dorado for a number of years, has a huge impact on the industry as a whole as well as on the Dorado community, Denton said.

The town of Dorado, on Puerto Ricos north coast about 30 miles west of San Juan, has a population of approximately 40,000, and tourism is its livelihood.

A plan worked out in conjunction with the town and the Department of Labor was put into effect to help displaced workers obtain severance benefits and future employment.

Cabrera praised the government, which really stepped up to the plate in terms of helping secure employment for the Dorado employees. Theyre offering counseling services and help in writing resumes. 

Hyatt has set up an office on-site and will relocate as many employees as possible to other Hyatt hotels, said Cabrera.

Hyatts Caribbean holdings are limited to the Hyatt Regency Aruba and the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman, which has been closed since Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, with only 53 beachfront suites open across the road from the main hotel.

Cabrera said that guests and events that had been booked at the Dorado after May 31 have been relocated. Much of that business was local, and we were able to accommodate everyone, he said.

Built around a grapefruit plantation, the Dorado Beach Hotel was bought by Laurance Rockefeller in 1953, who opened it in 1958 as a Rock Resort.

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

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