SuperClubs finds it feels right at home in Latin America

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The SuperClubs family of all-inclusive resorts is most closely associated with the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, but the company is becoming more visible in Latin America.

The company is building a 300-room resort in Panama, its first property in Central America. The resort is scheduled to open in mid-2008.

Also, SuperClubs has broken ground on a 330-room resort that will open in 2009 in Buzios, Brazil, a resort town about 100 miles north of Rio de Janeiro.

SuperClubs Executive Chairman John Issa said the expansion in Latin America makes sense, based on the positive results from existing operations in South America. SuperClubs entered the South America market in 2000 when it opened Breezes Costa Do Sauipe in Bahia, Brazil.

"The response has been excellent," Issa said. "And I am proud to say that we have outperformed some of the largest hotels operating in the vicinity. Our business is steady year-round, as we host not only guests from Brazil and the southern coast of South America but also from Europe."

Still, Issa admitted that it was something of an education to open a resort in a country with a different culture and language from those where SuperClubs had previously operated.

"As the culture, legal system and deep-rooted heritage differs greatly from Jamaica and that of the Bahamas, our learning curve was quite steep," Issa said. "We found our experience as the first all-inclusive hotelier in Jamaica was a valuable resource."

That experience led to another foray into South America. In 2001, a franchise agreement was signed with Sonesta International Hotels Corp., through which SuperClubs now manages two properties: the Sonesta Sao Paulo, which opened in 2004, and the Sonesta Brasilia, which opened in the Brazilian capital in 2006.

Buzios makes an impression

The development in Buzios is partly the result of Issa's personal experience with the destination. "I visited Buzios on my very first trip to Brazil, and I thought it was beautiful, and I enjoyed its close proximity to Rio," he said. "We were extremely pleased when a reputable and experienced developer approached us to build Breezes Buzios."

Breezes Buzios is part of a master plan that includes a spa, miniature golf course, cycling paths, roller-skating rink, archery center, bowling alley and convention facilities. The resort will also have 110 villas.

As for Central America, Issa said, "We have been looking at opportunities in Panama for many years and welcomed the wonderful opportunity to build Breezes on a first-class stretch of beautiful beach. Again, we were quite fortunate to be approached by a reputable, experienced group of investors and developers and saw our desire come to fruition."

Breezes signed a contract with Sunstar Hotel & Development to build the Breezes resort near Playa Blanca, Panama.

Located a few minutes from the coastal town of Bijao in the Cocle province, the property will have a spa and a casino.

The two new properties will increase the company's Breezes portfolio to eight resorts in six countries.

As for future growth, Issa said, "We are always looking for opportunities in this area, and our many years of experience operating in Latin American countries continues to inspire us to take advantage of the great potential that exists there."

To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].

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