Sandals Resorts International said Monday it would buy a high-end resort on Great Exuma in the Bahamas that closed earlier this year as the recession cut deeply into the region's crucial tourism industry.
Sandals, based in Jamaica, will buy the Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay for an undisclosed sum and reopen it in January 2010, after investing at least $12 million to upgrade the 500-acre property, CEO Adam Stewart said.
Sandals is prohibited from disclosing the purchase price by a nondisclosure agreement, but Stewart said the original developers invested more than $300 million on the property, which first opened in 2003 and includes 183 suites, an 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman and a 133-slip marina. "We are acquiring one of the most spectacular pieces of real estate in the Caribbean," he said.
Stewart told The Associated Press his company plans a number of upgrades, including outdoor cabanas for spa treatments, an authentic British pub, a piano bar and a new half-acre pool that will be three times the size of the existing one. They also will build a retail arcade to replace the casino.
The acquisition comes as tourism struggles in the region. Atlanta-based PKF Hospitality Research reported this month that Caribbean hotels had an average drop in profits of 16 percent in 2008 and projected "further profit deterioration" this year amid steep discounts and special offers.
"It has been a very tough year for everybody ... but our company will definitely come back stronger when things come back," Stewart said.
Sandals Emerald Bay, as the property will be known, is the company's 14th resort and the third in the Bahamas, an Atlantic island chain southeast of Florida.