Gay Nagle Myers
Much of the credit associated with the emergence of the Turks and Caicos as a luxury destination should go to Mark Durliat, CEO and founder of Grace Bay Resorts.
The company's flagship property is the Grace Bay Club, acquired in 2001 (it opened in 1993 as the first all-suite luxury resort in the destination). Grace Bay Club today offers three levels of accommodations: the 22-room, adults-only Grace Bay Club Hotel; 65 family-friendly Grace Bay Club Villas; and 22 residences at the Estate.
The rest of the Grace Bay Resorts portfolio includes the West Bay Club, the Private Villa Collection and, most recently, the 35-suite Point Grace resort. The Rock House residential cottage resort is under development.
"Credit should go to the great team we have," Durliat said. He referenced Nikeel Advani, COO and principal of Grace Bay Resorts, who "helped us to become a real hospitality company, leveraging all of our resources and allowing me to focus on the business side of development."
The company's private villa inventory, which now stands at seven managed villas, will grow to 12 in the next two years and could go as high as 20, according to Durliat. "Our villas are scattered about Providenciales, are heavily booked, do very well and generate year-round occupancies," he said.
As for the new Point Grace, Durliat admitted that he had had his sights set on it for 10 years.
"It is in a spectacular beachfront location on Grace Bay, just down from Grace Bay Resort," he said. "There is a nostalgia for Old Providenciales and low-density properties with lots of charm, but Point Grace was too small and quaint to compete any longer with the larger, luxury resorts on the island."
The existing 35 units range from one to three bedrooms, plus a four-bedroom penthouse, and he intends to keep to that number of units during the renovations that will take place over the next 12 to 18 months. He also plans to add a residential component of 20 to 30 units on the adjacent two acres of land.
A second restaurant will be added, "but we will keep to the quaint, European-style footprint but with luxury ambiance and service," he said.
Rock House, on Provo's north coast, will not be a traditional beachfront hotel, according to Durliat. Studio suites and freestanding one and two-bedroom cottages will mark the first phase of the project, with single-family estates in the second phase. Sizes will range from 630 square feet in a studio unit to 1,700 square feet in a two-bedroom unit, priced from $600,000 to $1.5 million.
"We are reimagining what it means to escape to the islands, and buyers are responding," he said. "Rock House will deliver an elegant property with timeless appeal that cannot be found in a traditional oceanfront condominium."
Durliat reported that 18 out of 39 units have been sold, primarily to U.S. and Canadian buyers.
Beyond his current projects in Turks and Caicos, Durliat has no further expansion plans at this time.
"Expansion beyond Provo means I need more lieutenants," he said. "I cannot afford not to have personal relationships with my buyers and my guests. I do not want to lose that."
As it is, Durliat splits his time now between his family in New York City and his resorts in Provo.
Grace Bay Resorts' business is up 10% this year and had its biggest month ever in terms of bookings in March.
With the hurricane season officially begun, Durliat admitted he was nervous. "It was a brutal one last year, but there is a heightened awareness now among all of us," he said. "The islands that were impacted will emerge stronger than ever, once insurance claims are resolved and stronger, newer properties will result."
Although the Turks and Caicos rebounded quickly after last year's storms, Grace Bay Resorts, along with many other properties, helped staff to rebuild damaged homes and lives.