TOURISM MATTERS: Farewell to the Fairmont brand
While not seeing it reported in our local press up to the time this column was submitted, I noticed a recent media release announcing the sale of Fairmont Royal Pavilion by its owners Quebec based Ivanhoe Cambridge, the global real estate company with a quoted property portfolio value of CAN$40 billion (BDS$71 billion) across 20 countries.
In turn, Ivanhoe Cambridge is a subsidiary of one of Canada’s leading institutional pension fund managers.
What immediately stood out from this particular sale was the description “set on more than 17 acres of landscaped tropical gardens”. With only 72 hotel rooms and a three bedroom villa, even when fully occupied (150 persons) that would give a staggering almost 5 000 square feet of land space for each guest.
If you are trying to visualise that, then just think before any additional land is purchased or room stock added, Sandals Casuarina currently offers around 778 square feet per guest.
The sales price was not publicly disclosed, but it appears absolutely apparent that the new owners will be seeking to increase the number of rooms either in a hotel model or villa accommodation to justify the acquisition.
Only time will tell if we will lose another international brand with a worldwide reputation for excellence, what if any effects there will be on any planned closure and the ultimate long-term benefit, as and when any enhanced plant reopens sometime in the future.
Of course, there is a lot of speculation currently and hopefully all will be revealed in the due course of time. Timing can be everything sometimes.
I would think that it is highly unlikely there will be any major disruption at Royal Pavilion prior to the end of the upcoming winter season, and before the promised concessions are firmly in place. Then there is the prolonged process of obtaining planning permission.
In my humble opinion, Fairmont is a truly iconic global brand and I have been privileged to stay several of their properties including Chateau Laurier, Copley Plaza, Chateau Lake Louise, The Queen Elizabeth and Vier Jahreszeiten, over the years, which have been among the best managed hotels anywhere.
Another tremendous strength of the group, which include the Swissotel and Raffles hotels is its loyalty programme called Presidents Club, where I have been a member since 2001. Sadly some of our tourism planners tend to forget the power and benefits that can be gleaned by retaining the allegiance of a guest or customer through these inducements.
Depending on the membership level a myriad of perks are available and I can tell you as a former frequent traveller that even simple things like an express check-in or check-out can have enormous appeal.
Room upgrades, increased miles, earned free room nights or a welcoming cold drink can make all the difference to which brand you stay loyal to.
Nor should we question that many who travel on business and collect their miles and accommodation points specifically to use on an annual holiday.
That’s why the Barbados location is especially appealing and we must do all that can be done to retain the brand.