Sun Chairman Shares Plans for Atlantis Addition

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Johannesburg, South Africa-based Sun International owns 70% of Paradise Island, Bahamas, including Atlantis, the Ocean Club, Paradise Paradise Beach Resort and Pirate's Cove. Travel Weekly hotel editor Linda Humphrey talked with Sun chairman Sol Kerzner on Paradise Island, where he is spearheading a $450 million addition to Atlantis. Sun bought the resort from Merv Griffin's Resorts International in May 1994.

TW: Just two years after opening the 1,147-room Atlantis resort, you are doubling its size. Why?

SK: At certain points of the year, we're turning away five reservations for every reservation we're taking. On average, we're turning away two reservations for every one we take.

TW: How did you come up with the idea of the Lost-City-of-Atlantis theme?

SK: Previously, there were just tennis courts here and a sort of concrete football field. It was odd and uninviting. I wanted to bring the ocean into the resort. We thought, 'Well, we're in the Caribbean, what do people expect when they come down here? They expect corral reefs and tropical fish,' and that's how the Atlantis idea began to build.

TW: Will rates in the new 1,200-room hotel, called the Palace, be higher than rates in the existing rooms?

SK: Yes. We already have a variety of rates at the resort.

TW: Some of the guest rooms now have views of the construction site.

SK: A lot of rooms do.

TW: Are you offering discounts for those rooms?

SK: No. We did expect that it might have been difficult, but we have had almost no complaints. It isn't noisy.

TW: The Palace addition will take the ruins-of-Atlantis theme even farther. How will you do this?

SK: You will actually walk into this maze and you'll see fish appearing through doors and down staircases [through gigantic picture windows]. The whole idea is that this is part of the sunken city of Atlantis. It's going to be quite different. It won't be like walking through an aquarium. It will be almost like scuba diving.

TW: Will cruise passengers have access to the Atlantis aquariums?

SK: We're going to have to control that more than we do right now. By the time the Palace addition opens there are going to be so many people who will want to see it [and] we're working through the situation of how we will control the movement of outside guests.

TW: As you continue to add rooms, won't the beachfront become overcrowded?

SK: We've got lots of beach. As you walk up toward the Ocean Club, it thins out and it's almost like an outer island beach. So if you want high activity, you've got it, and if you want a spot on your own, you've got it.

TW: What type of people are attracted to your three resorts here?

SK: The resort is big on families, there's no doubt about that. You'll also find lots of young and elderly couples.

TW: How many of your guests are serious gamblers?

SK: Not many. [Most] of our guests come for the resort.

TW: The 58-room Ocean Club is a serene contrast to the bustle of Atlantis. What was your plan for the hotel when Sun purchased it?

SK: It was once established as a super boutique hotel, but, as with everything else, it had been neglected. We virtually rebuilt the place. The only thing I didn't want to change is the architectural feel. It's very understated. At the Ocean Club, you feel as if you could be on one of the outer islands. Yet if you feel like a night out, you have all the action of Atlantis.

TW: What are your plans for Pirate's Cove, the neighboring 562-room resort you bought from Holiday Inn and which now houses the Atlantis construction team?

SK: It's a little early for me to talk about, other than to say that I believe the beachfront there will be available for a third expansion of Atlantis.

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