Peter Island Resort unveils broad post-Georges makeover

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 infinity pool at Peter Island 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 100% mark."

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 said.

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.

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