ORANJESTAD, Aruba — Ritz-Carlton will expand its presence in the Caribbean with the 320-room, $200 million Ritz-Carlton Aruba, slated to open in late 2012.
The resort will be Ritz-Carlton’s seventh in the Caribbean region, joining hotels in St. Thomas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, Cancun and Abaco, Bahamas.
The announcement here earlier this week by Marriott International’s CEO and chairman, Bill Marriott Jr., capped several years of debate about building another hotel on one of the last stretches of prime beachfront along Palm Beach’s hotel row.
Concerns regarding the sustainability and conservation of Aruba’s natural resources as well as access to the beach for island residents had stalled talks in the past.
Prime Minister Mike Eman said Marriott’s commitment to a sustainable, responsible project helped assuage concerns.
"Having a Ritz-Carlton in Aruba means a lot to the Marriott brand in Aruba, where we already have more 1,400 rooms and employ more than 1,200 people, the majority of whom are from the island," Marriott said.
"We have a big investment here and just completed a $50 million total makeover of the Aruba Marriott. We have an ongoing responsibility to be good citizens to the government and the residents."
Beach access for locals and preserving as much natural shoreline as possible will be incorporated into the final design plan, he added.
The new Ritz-Carlton will be high on energy efficiency and low on water consumption, features that Marriott described as "two economic drivers of Caribbean construction and tourism."
The resort will employ close to 700 full-time employees as well as hundreds of workers during the construction phase.
Marriott said that 90% of the workforce would come from Aruba.
Hospitality training and teaching will go hand in hand with staff hiring, Marriott said, with the goal that "all our workers can rise through the ranks at each of our hotels."
The new Ritz-Carlton will be adjacent to the 411-room Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino and Marriott’s two timeshare villa developments, the 450-unit Surf Club and the 307-unit Ocean Club.
The resort will offer several restaurants, a spa, two pools, a 24-hour casino and a club offering light fare and concierge services.
Several other Ritz-Carlton Caribbean projects remain stalled due to lack of financing, including developments in St. Lucia, Nassau, Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic.