Interview: Hon John Issa, Chairman SuperClubs

Ben Kilbey

After 26 years in the business SuperClubs still seem to have what it takes to drive a quality model to success. With an ever expanding, if not slightly delayed, portfolio of properties the company continues to keep arch-rivals Sandals on their toes. With a Super all-inclusive concept the company aims to give the client just that little bit extra above the rest. As their website suggests, ‘Super-Inclusive isn’t just about more. It’s about better. Frankly, nobody even comes close.’ A bold statement from a bold company. At the helm is the well respected and well known Hon. John Issa, the man behind the concept and a visionary who has been coined ‘Super man’ in the SuperClubs inner circle, he has been voted ‘Caribbean Perspn of the Year’ by Travel Agent magazine in the past. “The all-inclusive idea has become somewhat diluted in recent years. Many people travel to “all-inclusive” resorts and unexpectedly encounter concealed charges,” says Mr. Issa. “At SuperClubs, the Super-Inclusive holiday package encompasses everything in one up-front price.” CTN probed Mr. Issa about the future of the chain, Mr. Issa’s views on Cuba and his views on the environment in this entertaining interview.CTN:Are you excited about the fact that the flood gates to Cuba could soon be opened and the American market be allowed in? Have you always imagined that this may happen?

John Issa:When we established our brands in Cuba some 14 years ago, I actually thought that relations with the US would become stable within 5 years. I was obviously wrong. However when that event takes place, the economics of the tourism industry will change.

CTN:What is the position with the Grand Lido that will be constructed on the beautiful island of St. Kitts? Personal I feel that St. Kitts could be a very successful island in the future; do you feel that this could be a good venture for SuperClubs? (Will it incorporate a spa, on that note how important is the spa market to SuperClubs?)

John Issa:This project has been delayed because we have not been able to get the construction numbers right. I however agree that St. Kitts is a great destination and a Grand Lido resort will do very well there. And for the record, it will have an outstanding spa.


CTN:What is your opinion on the cruise sector? Do you feel that they take too much without giving enough back? How do you feel the sector could be better managed?

John Issa:It is a very important part of the tourism industry. It is unfortunate that the tax burden that the various countries place on the industry is unfairly, and almost totally placed, on the land based sector. Primarily hotels. There needs to be some reworking to create a better and fairly equilibrium.

CTN:How important is the issue of sustainable tourism to SuperClubs and yourself personally? What measure do you implement to help keep the environment clean? What is SuperClubs on sewage treatment? Do you secondary treat?

John Issa:We are very environmentally conscious. We are working towards having all our hotels certified by green globe, many have already been. Where we have our own sewage treatment plants, we recycle the water for irrigation of our gardens and in a number of cases we collect the rain water for re-use.

CTN:How important is the UK market to your Company? Which resort takes the biggest market share of UK clients and which the smallest?

John Issa:The UK is of course a very important market to SuperClubs. In Jamaica starfish has the highest percentage of UK guests, the resorts in the Dominican Republic and Cuba get a larger proportion of UK guests than the other resorts in Jamaica.

CTN:On a more delicate note, how safe do you feel the Caribbean is from the threat of a terrorist attack? In light of its rather relaxed security measures and strong influx of American tourists, do you feel it could ever be a ‘soft target’ in the vein of Bali? How would business be affected if such a situation did occur and would the region have the means to cope/rebuild?

John Issa:In my opinion, the Caribbean is somewhat distant from the areas where there is religious conflict, so therefore I foresee a safe future for the region.

CTN:In closing, what are you most exciting developments at present?

John Issa:We are creating some very exciting features at a number of our resort but we don’t announce them until they are complete. For example, we have just installed the most exciting multi head showers in about half the suites at grand lido Negril and Jacuzzi tubs in the other half.