Manzanillo's all-suite Karmina to get time-share sister

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MANZANILLO, Mexico -- Hotelier Robert Woolley likes to be first.

When he was in the mechanical contracting business in the late '60s building furnished apartments, the Dallas entrepreneur decided to "take the bull by the horns" and create a concept that he believed would appeal to business travelers: the all-suite hotel.

His first all-suite venture, the Granada Royale, opened in 1969. It offered families and business travelers "room to breathe," in addition to free breakfast, a complimentary cocktail hour and exercise facilities.

By the time Woolley sold his Granada Royale chain in 1984, it consisted of 26 hotels and 70 franchises. The Granada Royale chain turned into Embassy Suites.

In 1987, well before the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Mexico in 1994, Woolley began negotiating with a Monterrey, Mexico-based development group for land in Manzanillo to build a sprawling, all-suite beach resort.

The sprawling, 324-suite Karmina Palace features eight swimming pools, three restaurants, a spa and fitness center and a private beach. In 1998, after years of delays and setbacks, including the pullout of his financial partner, Westinghouse Electric Corp., Woolley finally opened the 324-suite Karmina Palace, becoming one of the first American developers to construct such a hotel in Mexico.

Modeled after a Mayan palace with waterfalls and interconnecting swimming pools tucked into a spectacular cove on the Las Hadas Peninsula, the $70 million Karmina Palace is situated next to Las Hadas, the Mediterranean-style resort where the movie "10" was filmed.

Guests of the Karmina Palace have access to golf and tennis through the Club Las Hadas.

There are also three restaurants, eight swimming pools, a 3,200-square-foot fitness facility and spa and 44,420 square feet of meetings facilities.

For families, the resort offers a Kid's Club with supervised activities for youngsters ages 4 to 12.

The Karmina Palace's suites range in category from junior and one-bedroom to master and presidential.

All units feature mahogany wood furnishings, marble floors, oversize baths and sofa sleepers.

Rates at the Karmina Palace range from $260 to $400 per room, double.

The Karmina Palace will soon have a companion.

Woolley said he plans to build another resort in Manzanillo, this one near a 500-slip marina that's planned for Santiago Bay, about four miles from the Karmina.

The as-yet-unnamed property would feature about 300 rooms and cost in the neighborhood of $30 million to build.

Construction is not expected to start for another 18 months.

"It [the new resort] will be positioned at a lower price point compared with the Karmina and will be directed to families and to time-share owners," said Woolley.

For information or reservations, call (877) 527-6462.

Information also can be obtained by logging on to the Karmina Palace Web site at www.karminapalace.com.

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