Wasipha Khan is a very focused lady. She is also a very excited lady. The focus in Wasipha’s life is none other then her beloved Villas at Stone Haven in Tobago. ‘I have never been discouraged by this industry, I have never been sad in this business, it just fits’ she says happily. The present excitement is the fact that Villas at Stone Haven has been nominated in this years World Travel Awards in the category of Caribbean’s Leading Villa Hotel. “It blow my mind to be nominated,” states Khan. In this exclusive interview Ben Kilbey speaks with Wasipha about business and what it is that made Conde Nast state that the Villas at Stone Haven are ‘one of the best new resorts in the world’.The Villas at Stone Haven are a relative new comer on the tourism circuit.
“We are only four years old and I have been here since the beginning. Our primary focus for now is the property. Once we have really found our feet then we may be able to look at Tobago’s tourism product as a whole. For now though the property is the only thing that affects me,” says Wasipha.
Wasipha isn’t too worried about the tourism product as a whole as she has faith in both the Minister of Tourism of Trinidad & Tobago, Howard Chin Lee, and Warren Solomon, Vice President of Tourism.
“The Minister really understands tourism, I am really impressed and encouraged by him. For the future (2005/06) with both the Minster and Vice Presidents support we will be OK. If we can have faith in those who are leading us then we can focus more on what we (as hoteliers) are doing - we can focus on our properties”.
Tobago is well positioned for growth in Miss. Khan’s view, this is dependent on “no further world catastrophes and people behaving themselves - if this occurs then we will grow”.
The Villas at Stone Haven have been creating a media buzz since they opened four years ago. This year sees them featured as a nominee for a World Travel Award in the category of Caribbean’s Leading Villa Hotel. Yet another reflection of the level of accommodation and service provided at Stone Haven.
“I am very happy to have been nominated. The awards are for the best in the business. The fact that we are recognised by people in the industry is over whelming - just to be nominated speaks volumes. I looked at the competition and was blown away - there is some stiff competition. Like I said, just to be nominated is a really good thing”.
Wasipha recognised the last Hurricane season as one of the worst on record. Tobago was fortunate not to suffer as others did. In a bid to offer assistance, whilst at the same time learning from others, Miss. Khan had the initiative to bring staff over from the stricken island of Grenada.
“By bringing the staff over on monthly contracts I saw an opportunity to assist Grenada whilst at the same time learning from others”.
The measure of a good product to Wasipha is if the guest comes back;
“It’s great if people come and have a good time but if they come back you know you are doing something right. Our repeat business is getting stronger and stronger. If people know the product is going to be good then they don’t mind travelling to it. We have only been open four years and we already have four time repeat visitors - that is really an amazing thing”.
Repeat visitors are a key objective for Wasipha as is the wedding market. 65 - 70 percent of Stone Havens business comes out of the UK but the bulk of its wedding market comes out of the USA.
“We can always use more business - but as a matter of fact we cannot complain. The wedding market is huge and this this is something I have realised. We took an advert out in Conde Nast Bridal and this will really focus on our key wedding market, the US. Most US bookings are for weddings or incentive travel, with an average of 5 nights stay. UK visitors come for 7, 14 up to 21 nights”.
2005 is looking good and Wasipa is proud of this. The Villas at Stone Haven offer something different. They are not just a villa in the hills - they are a complete resort offering a club house and 24 hour security for guests.
The Villas at Stone Haven are situated on a hillside just a few minutes from the sea. They benefit from stunning views of the Caribbean and amazing sunsets. There are fourteen spacious villas, all with large living areas, four en-suite bedrooms, 50 ft verandahs and private infinity pools. As the website indicates ‘the ultimate in luxurious living’.
The majority of UK repeat visitors come via tour operators such as ITC and JustTobago. The website is also a strong contributor to bookings, accounting for some 20 percent.
“Although tour operators are key sellers the website is a critical component. Right from the very beginning I saw the advantage of the Internet. Anybody that ignores the Internet is making a big mistake. At present it accounts for some 20 percent of our bookings split 50/50 UK and US”.
There is a distinctive charm at Stone Haven and one of them is the fact that Wasipha will never pretend to be anything she is not, and the same is true of Stone Haven.
“I would never say that we offer fine dining, nowhere on the island can because there just isn’t the level of service available. We offer elegant dining. You can only be what you can and nothing else, otherwise you are just pretentious”.
“There is one thing that we can promise you and that is we will spoil you. The fact that we have four time repeat visitors in just four years speaks for itself. We offer privacy whilst at the same time everything you need is here”.
For more information visit: www.stonehavenvillas.com