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Almond’s touch


TREVOR YEARWOOD

Almond’s touch

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ALMOND BEACH VILLAGE is reopening in mid-January as a smaller, greener and more intimate operation, in time to cash in on the winter tourist business.
“We are going full steam ahead to get the property ready for a January 16 opening,” general manager Craig Smith told the MIDWEEK NATION yesterday as painters, carpenters, masons, furniture cleaners and gardeners continued their work.
“We started the upgrading in the middle of November. We have two main contractor crews on the site in addition to a full complement of gardening staff and ground staff. We have about 40 to 50 people who found jobs on the construction site.”
Almond Beach Village, located near Speightstown, St Peter, closed its doors at the end of April 2012 after struggling to maintain profitable occupancy levels.
The closure of the resort, which had more than 400 rooms, ten pools and five restaurants, put more than 500 employees out of work.
However, Government has decided to purchase the property from Neal and Massy of Trinidad, reportedly for US$53 million, to keep it open.
A smaller operation is to be managed by Bernie Weatherhead’s Sun Group Hotels, after renovations costing at least $3 million, until Sandals Resorts International moves to bulldoze and rebuild most of the plant.
“Ours will be a scaled-down version of the original Almond, which had more than 400 rooms,” Smith explained. “We will be operating only 135 rooms, so the service will be a lot more personalized, more intimate.”
Guests will be using the best of the rooms at Almond Beach, largely the southern end or Block 7.
Smith also said it would be a greener operation, with many more plants than the old Almond Beach Village.
Full complement
There will be fewer employees, however. “We’re hoping to have a full complement of possibly 120 staff based on our manning guidelines when the hotel reaches 100 per cent occupancy,” he reported.
“We have a fairly strenuous recruitment programme going and if former Almond Beach Village employees qualify, they will be rehired. It’s better to have someone who has a knowledge of the property than to recruit someone who doesn’t have a clue where certain things are. The food and beverage manager, Wren Miller, has been rehired.”
Smith said bookings at the moment were “a bit slow” but he expected them to improve shortly as word spread on the reopening.
The bulk of the guests will start to arrive around January 22-23.
As to how long the Sun Group will be managing the operation, he said: “We envision 18 months, but personally I hope that if we do a good enough job we will be able to keep the project going for a lot longer.
“Rather than spending $400 million, maybe we can spend $20 million, refurbish the north section and have Almond Beach as a Barbadian-owned and run property.”

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