Ettore Colussi, founder and president of Viva Wyndham Resorts, a collection of eight all-inclusive properties in the Caribbean region, is not letting the challenges of the Covid pandemic daunt his plans.
Already in his portfolio are five resorts in the D.R.: the Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach, which reopened on Oct. 8, the adjacent 400-room Viva Wyndham Palace, the Viva Wyndham Tangerine in Cabarete, and the adults-only Viva Wyndham V Samana and the Viva Wyndham V Heavens in Puerto Plata. The Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach is in Freeport, Bahamas, and there are two resorts in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
I spoke by phone with Colussi recently while he was in Italy on business, but most of the time he's based at home in the Dominican Republic where he is often on, in or under the water, sailing, diving and parasailing.
"I love Italy," he said, "Great food, and I am putting on a couple of pounds here, but the Dominican Republic is my home."
At an early age, Colussi's passion for travel and watersports led him to the D.R., where he began working in the tourism industry.
It was there that his inspiration for an affordable, family-friendly all-inclusive vacation experience took flight.
Colussi opened the doors to the original Club Dominicus Beach in 1986, a small, intimate hotel with 36 bungalows that included dining and a handful of sports activities.
The property, now named Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach, has grown to 670 beachfront guestrooms and bungalows with a wide array of restaurants, live entertainment, childcare services and land and water sports.
The resort had closed when the pandemic began. "We used the closure as an opportunity to build upon our priority of safety, health and cleanliness to implement new practices, services and updated amenities across all of our all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean," Colussi said.
And it reopened this month with a raft of updates: newly renovated guestrooms, lobby and bars; four pools, including a new saltwater infinity pool and two pools with dedicated children's areas; the new Tiki Bar with swing seating; the new open-air Latin fusion restaurant; and coral stone-lined walkways surrounding the resort.
"The Dominicus Beach symbolizes a new beginning as we reveal a new experience that allows guests to recharge in a pristine oasis," he said.
Colussi's expansion plans include an all-inclusive resort in Miches in the D.R., where he hopes to break ground in 2021, as well as a resort in Negril, Jamaica, but there's no timeline on that one at this point.
"Our occupancy [percentages] pre-Covid in all our resorts ran to the high 80s and 90s, but they are much lower now," he said. "I think they will improve as the weather gets colder in our key markets in the U.S., and as the Covid cases begin to go down."
Colussi expects late-minute bookings through the Christmas period. "There's been a lot of interest from January on, and I'm hoping that translates into solid business," he said.
Viva Wyndham's response to Covid-19 follows the guidelines and recommendations of the World Health Organization, local health departments and Cristal International Standards, a U.K.-based company that employs hygiene, health and safety experts in the prevention of the spread of infection in the hospitality sector.
"We are doing all we can to maintain the safety of our guests and our staff," Colussi said. "Our guests expect good value for their money. The vacation experience is more than just the hotel, so we offer them the best in the hotel portion of their stay along with activities, amenities, safety and security that will bring them back as repeat guests."