Point Grace hones its finer points

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PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos -- Andrew Hedley, managing director at Point Grace resort here, is a man with a mission: Whipping this tony, 4-year-old condo/hotel complex -- still one of Provo's most exclusive properties -- back into the tip-top shape owners and overnight guests deserve.

To all appearances, Hedley -- a young father of two who's already managed to hone his hospitality skills in London, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, France and even Botswana -- already has succeeded, but he said he's still taking a four-pronged approach to further polish this diamond "in the not-so-rough."

First, he's introducing more value-added services; then, he'll direct what he called "massive" investments in facility upgrades at the property, which opened in January 2000.

Third, Hedley's focused on hiring and training top-of-the-line staff, and last, he's furthering the resort's existing partnerships with travel agents.

The luxurious beachfront condominium suites at tony Point Grace on Providenciales feature expansive oceanview terraces. "I'll be honest: I inherited a property that was not in the best shape because the owner hadn't made the best management choices in hiring," he said.

To wit, Hedley is the fourth manager hired in five years.

"But I'm very much about putting together a team that can pull this off because Point Grace is the type of property I identify with -- one that offers personalized attention with a hands-on approach where you can make a difference," he said.

So, guests checking into one of the resort's 27 rentable suites -- all one to three bedrooms with kitchens -- soon will find continental breakfast again included in the rates, along with the existing free airport transfers; afternoon poolside sorbet; and evening cocktails and hors-d'oeuvres.

Another perk-in-the-works: free fresh, sliced fruit platters and water misters by the pool.

In terms of facilities, Point Grace will spend $400,000 this year on furnishings such as linens and beach furniture; however, any updates will stick to the resort's much-acclaimed, signature Indonesian/Balinese design aesthetic.

"It's a fairly significant reinvestment for a property this size," Hedley said. "A large part of this effort is making sure the place seems fine and lives up to guest expectations."

Hedley started at Point Grace last September, during a six-week-long closure for cleaning and what he termed "catch-up."

As if in commemoration of that anniversary, he will shut the already meticulous property for five weeks again in September for what he claimed is a much-needed repainting job.

In the meantime, he's ensuring that staff meet exacting service standards; if a recent visit was any indication, Point Grace staff are among the friendliest and most professional at a resort of its size in the islands.

"The focus also is on building our [management] team," said Hedley. "The reaction I get about our staff is positive."

Point Grace is looking to cultivate its ties to the travel trade; although high-end tour operators and online travel sellers have eaten into the market, whittling the portion of bookings the resort gets from agents down to 25% -- from a one-time high of 35% -- Hedley said the retailer model works better both for resorts and the traveling consumer.

"Online [outlets] like Luxurylink.com and the like are not working because as soon as you have to [discount] by about 20%, it's just not worth it," he said.

"I think that's where agents have to come in: Luxury travel is something people spend a lot on, and they don't want to make mistakes, so they go through agents who know what they're doing," said Hedley. "And if everything goes pear-shaped, they've got someone to blame."

In addition, most repeat guests continue to book through the high-end agents who made the original reservations, so "from a marketing point of view, the travel trade is still a force and will remain so," added Hedley.

"You have to look out for the hand that feeds you," he said.

One way Point Grace plans to reconcile the Internet age with the retailer-distribution model is to offer separate online booking engines for Virtuoso and unaffiliated travel agents at www.pointgrace.com; after registration, agents will get access to special deals and discounts.

A launch date for online booking functionality was not available at press time.

For more information, call Point Grace at (866) 924-7223; send an e-mail message to [email protected]; or visit the resort's Web site at www.pointgrace.com.

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

Room Key: POINT GRACE RESORT
Address:
P. O. Box 700, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, British West Indies
Phone: (649) 946-5096
Reservations: (866) 924-7223
E-mail:[email protected]
Web:www.pointgrace.com
Managing director: Andrew Hedley
Rates: $395 to $4,000 per room, per night through Dec. 23.
Commission: 10%
Suites: 27 for rent, out of 32 suites and penthouses on site.
Facilities: Grace's Cottage restaurant and poolside restaurants; business center; CD/DVD library; Thalasso Spa; pool.
Amenities: Transfers; cocktail and canape party; shuttle to golf/tennis/gym. Also available: meal plan; grocery shopping, secretarial services; babysitting; private chef.
Review: Despite the talk of a much-needed overhaul, Point Grace offers top-of-the-line comfort, luxury and service. Staff is friendly and accommodating; a poolside one-bedroom suite with kitchenette is spacious and well furnished. Beachfront Thalasso Spa -- where director Edmonde offers treatments in private huts with ocean views -- is world-class, as is cuisine at the on-site Grace's Cottage restaurant.

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