Parrot Cay resort relies on agents to fill rooms


PARROT CAY, Turks and Caicos -- High-end holistic hideaway and exclusive celebrity redoubt Parrot Cay, looking to increase off-season business, is fine-tuning its already top-notch offerings for both its privacy-conscious clientele and the travel trade.

According to managing director Harry Apostolides, 2003 was a record-breaking year for the five-year-old resort and spa in both the high and low seasons, despite the lingering after-effects of 9/11 on leisure travel.

"And just in case last year's results seem freakish, 2004 is looking great, as well," he said. "Last night, we had 100% occupancy ... so business is good."

"But the challenge isn't filling the resort in the high season," Apostolides continued. "It remains convincing people the Turks and Caicos is good for breaks in the summer, as well."

To that end, improvements just completed or still on tap for the 60-unit resort -- sole property on the otherwise uninhabited 1,000-acre islet of Parrot Cay, a 30-minute boat ride by private launch from busy Providenciales -- include a newly expanded spa complex, new soft furnishings and remodeled bathrooms in guest quarters, and the construction of additional rental villas.

And agent-wise, Parrot Cay -- a Como Hotels and Resorts property that pays commissions of 10% -- recently reinforced ties to retailers by abandoning participation in Luxury Link, an Internet travel site (at where it was unloading distressed inventory in eBay-style auctions.

Why the online about-face, when Internet auctions might help fill rooms in the summer?

The 1,000-acre islet of Parrot Cay is a 30-minute boat ride by private launch from busy Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos.Apostolides said secluded Parrot Cay -- popular with celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Sandra Bullock and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards -- had dropped Luxury Link "in support of travel agents, as a preemptive measure ... to relationship-build with [the trade]."

Two of the resort's best travel agent partners, he explained, had complained of being undersold by the site.

To smooth things over -- and "save face" -- resort management paid the agents their lost commissions.

That's because -- despite Parrot Cay's ongoing popularity with the international jet set -- the property relies heavily on bookings from travel agencies.

To wit, it's affiliated with the Virtuoso agency consortium and sells -- somewhat surprisingly, for such a Hollywood hot spot -- via wholesalers Liberty Travel and Island Destinations.

Parrot Cay also belongs to Leading Hotels of the World and Crown International Marketing's The Crown Collection.

"We live and die by travel agents, and their advice, recommendations and multiple bookings keep us afloat here," Apostolides observed. "If we don't support agents at this difficult time, we cannot expect support from them in the future."

Apostolides believes Parrot Cay appeals to travel agents thanks to its high average room rate -- which makes for hefty commission pay -- and a reliable repeat visit rate in excess of 70%, "although the way our guests rave you'd think it was closer to 99%."

Thirdly, he said, the property has a good reputation because it's "open to arranging 'special touches' on behalf of agents for clients," Apostolides added.

"Usually that goes a long way; it is, after all, the little things you do that matter."

The better to serve

Along those lines, management is freshening up still-trendy Parrot Cay -- originally decorated by Keith Hobbs of London-based United Designers -- with a few new touches, such as a resortwide soft-furnishings upgrade and remodeled guest bathrooms.

Also, public areas such as the library will be spruced up as part of the $2 million upgrade.

"We want to ensure all facilities are of the highest standard, as the local climate can be harsh on both fabrics and wood finishes," said Apostolides. "And as we have a high repeat-visitor rate, we'd like to have some surprises in store for returning guests.

"We'll stick to the same [design] theme, but there may be some slight changes, in terms of fabrics and the like," he added.

The resort's fitness center -- outfitted with cardiovascular and weight-training equipment -- also will get $70,000 worth of new machines this year.

In terms of infrastructure and inventory, Parrot Cay also is adding four two- and three-bedroom villas to the existing five owned by the celebrity likes of Willis, Richards, fashion designer Donna Karan and former model Christie Brinkley.

When the stars are off-island, their oceanfront villas -- which sell out first among all units -- are available for rent through the "home-letting" program for $3,200 to $4,800 per night.

"They're very lucrative both for us and for the agent who books them," said Apostolides, speculating that the popular villa units usually sell out first because guests booking a high-end property like Parrot Cay want exclusive, water's-edge accommodations rather than traditional accommodations.

"Our hotel fills from the top down, not bottom up," he said. "Our ocean- and gardenview rooms don't sell as readily as oceanfront accommodations."

All nine villas come with private heated swimming pools and exclusive butler services.

More spa, more treatments

Many well-heeled guests head to Parrot Cay specifically for its renowned spa, the Shambhala, voted the world's number one spa by Conde Nast in February.

Como Hotels and Resorts spent approximately $2.5 million to nearly double the size of the spa in an expansion effort completed just last month.

The new 6,600-square-foot space includes yoga and Pilates studios; four single and two double massage rooms, with panoramic windows, outdoor showers and Japanese baths; male and female locker- and steam rooms; and a women-only outdoor Jacuzzi garden.

"The expansion of the spa and addition of treatments and therapies will only strengthen our already excellent reputation in the market," said Apostolides.

"More and more people are looking for a spa experience during their beach holiday."

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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For more details on this article, see At Parrot Cay, relaxation is favorite recreation.

Room key: PARROT CAY
P.O. Box 164 Provindenciales, Turks & Caicos, British West Indies
Affiliations: Como Hotels & Resorts, The Crown Collection
Phone: (649) 946-7788
Fax: (649) 946-7789
Reservations: (877) 754-0726, direct; (800) 628-8929, Crown
E-mail:[email protected]
General Manager: Carl Henderson
Rates: $380-$4,800 per night, with transfers and breakfast; 3- to 5-night minimum stay
Commission: 10%.
Opened: 1998
Rooms/Suites: 63
Facilities: Mediterranean and Asian restaurants; Shambhala spa with sauna, steambath, treatment rooms, pools; gym; beachfront infinity pool; villas with private pools, outdoor showers; gift shop; library with Internet; 3-mile beach.
Amenities/Services: Daily free yoga, Pilates classes; boat airport transfers; private excursions; rooms feature private verandas, CD/DVD players, air conditioning, tea/coffee makers and minibar, Shambhala spa personal-care products.

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