Little Key Beach Reopens; La Belle Creole Closes

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Reed Travel Features

MARIGOT -- Hoteliers here anticipated the reopening of the former Golden Tulip Saint Martin Beach Resort and awaited a new opening date for La Belle Creole.

The Golden Tulip, renamed the Little Key Beach Hotel, was slated to reopen earlier this month, according to a spokesman for the St. Martin Tourist Office in New York.

The 94-room, deluxe property has been closed since it was damaged in 1995 by Hurricane Luis, and Guadeloupe-based Anchorage Inc. took over the management of the hotel in February.

The new manager is Alain Touchou, who also runs the 96-unit Anse Margot here.

As for La Belle Creole, management remained reluctant to set a reopening date for the 166-room hotel as labor negotiations continued.

"The matter is in court, and the hotel will have to remain closed until either we negotiate with the second union or we come to terms in court," said Roger White, vice president of Ontario-based Winfair Group, the hotel's management company.

White said a "long legal battle is anticipated," and as a result, the hotel will remain closed for some time because striking workers have threatened to shut the hotel down if the legal action is not first resolved.

La Belle Creole, one of the island's major resorts, briefly reopened in January with 70 of its rooms in operation, and later was seized by striking workers and shut down on Jan. 21.

La Belle Creole, which had been closed since it suffered grave damage from Hurricane Luis in September 1995, was in the process of being renovated at a cost of more than $20 million.

Union workers protested when all staff was not rehired for the property's partial reopening, he said.

"One union seems quite amicable, but the second wants to progress with negotiations in court and will not allow the hotel to open until they achieve their ends," he said.

White said an initial judgment may be made by the end of March, but it remains to be seen whether the labor union involved will accept the terms of the deal.

He said the hotel likely will lose more than $1 million during the month of March, one of the peak months during high season.

"Now is the time to make profits, and [the strike] really killed the season."

Displaced guests have been reaccommodated at other resorts or have been given a refund, he said.

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