PETER ISLAND, British Virgin Islands -- It was a long time between
check-ins at the front desk, but Peter Island Resort finally
welcomed its first guests April 1, eight months after Hurricane
Georges roared through the property and shut the place down.
The resort staff is a hardy bunch. They had weathered a six-month
closure the year before, during which Peter Island revamped,
refurbished, renovated and redid itself from cotton-webbed hammocks
to user-friendly lounge chairs.
Wayne Kafcsak, general manager, said then, at the reopening in
December 1997, "If you haven't been here before, this is a new
resort. If you are a repeat guest, you'll be happy."
He was right on both counts. Along came Georges last Sept. 20,
and it was back to the drawing board. Kafcsak's assessment now?
"We're better than ever," he said. But it took close to $10 million
and the loss of the peak winter season to get there.
George Aquino, director of operations for Michigan-based Amway
Corp. -- which owns the resort -- said, "The hurricane damage
repairs cost more than the first renovation." He said Peter Island
"could have opened for Christmas, but we were only 60% done. The
decision was made to open only when repairs and staff were at the
Peter Island Resort comprises of 1,640 acres of the 1,800-acre
island, 90 minutes by boat across Sir Francis Drake Channel from
Tortola. "More than 60% of our 52 rooms are right by the pool and
water. There's nothing here to protect us, and it was the water
surge 10 feet above the sea wall that did the most damage," Aquino
The surge destroyed kitchen equipment and generators, and salt
water corroded electrical wires. The infinity pool and decking
cracked, palm trees fell like paper straws, the surface of the
tennis court bubbled up, and Kafcsak struggled to stay afloat as
chest-high water swept him, along with chairs and shutters, out of
the dining room.
He explained that all guests had been safely evacuated well
before the storm hit. "We have the hurricane evacuation plan down
pat now," he said. "Because of our location, we get everybody out
at the first threat of a bad storm."
Resort officials took advantage of the shutdown to tweak the
property beyond the necessary repairs. The enhancements
included:Installing exterior lighting in the 20 beachfront junior suites
and planting more palm trees to flank the open-air library and
pool.Air-conditioning the dining room.Doubling the number of plants and foliage in the landscaping of
the grounds.Commissioning an artist to paint a vineyard scene in the wine
room.Adding a recreational open-air hut to serve as the activities
sign-up area for water sports and bike rentals.
For marketing reasons, the resort switched its dive operation
from Dive BVI to Baskin' in the Sun and redid the dive building by
adding harborside showers and cafe seating. A commissary opens in
November for light snacks and beverages during the day.
Occupancy levels for April have averaged 77%, thanks to a
stepped-up marketing and promotional campaign targeted at agents.
Aquino said summer bookings are "promising" as well.
Nightly rack rates through Nov. 13 start at $450, double, in an
oceanview room to $620 for a beachfront unit and include all meals,
roundtrip transfers from Beef Island Airport on Tortola, unlimited
ferry transport, a private picnic on a secluded beach, the use of
sports equipment and tax and service charges.