The Middle East has its fair share of investment in the property sector. But one destination in the Caribbean is also attracting investors, hoteliers and developers - the Turks & Caicos.
Hotel openings, fresh air routes and a booming real-estate sector are fuelling a lot of interest in these Caribbean islands, and according to the chief minister, who spoke at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai, it looks set to continue.
The group of eight islands to the south of the Bahamas chain are being branded one of the hottest global tourism destinations. It is already a high-barrier-to-enter market for investors, and there is already a buzz about the archipelago in the press.
The islands have just received the highly coveted “International Star Diamond Award” from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS), recognising commitment to excellence in luxury and service. The award scheme evaluates nominees based on exceptional service, superb facilities, ambiance, gastronomy, cleanliness and, above all, hospitality.
This comes as the Amanresorts promotes its first property in the Caribbean - Amanyara. There is a Ritz Carlton planned for late 2007 and now Spirit Airlines is serving daily non-stop flights to the islands from Fort Lauderdale.
Fairmont has also entered into an agreement to manage a mixed-use luxury development called “Fairmont Three Cays,” which will include 300 guestroom units, residential developments including Fairmont Heritage Place, a Willow Stream spa and a championship golf course, all of which will open in 2009.
With the help of Carnival Cruises, the islands have also invested $40 million in a brand-new port, Grand Turk Cruise Center, to accommodate big ships - officials say they hope to attract 250,000 passengers this year alone. Already Holland America Line’s newest cruise ship, the 1,848 passenger Noordam has docked there. There is also direct beach access - rare for a cruise terminal.
The islands will also host the World Travel Awards, the Oscars of the tourism industry, in September of this year, as well as the World Travel Internet Conference.
“We are certainly up and coming and we have a lot of investment, but we want to balance that with protecting our environment,” Chief Minister Michael Misick told Breaking Travel News.
“It is very important to us. We are after sustainable development and therefore we are looking to move forward at our own pace, not what the market decides.”
‘‘We are building your dream,’’ says one advertisement hanging at the International Airport’s immigration control room, and along Grace Bay Beach on the island of Providenciales you can see the building projects being constructed: the Tuscany, Grace Bay Club Villas, Pinnacle, Seven Stars, Regent Grand, Mandalay, Somerset, Alexandra, Veranda.
The Mandalay is one hotel and residential development that is spearheading innovation in this sector with its Caribbean and Asia - Caribasian - concept and its Infinity Edge Living design, where portions of the glass exterior walls disappear into specially designed pockets leaving nothing behind but panoramic view of the ocean.
Many of the low-key developments here - the government does not allow anything to be over seven floors high - reflect the depth of the current interest in the Turks and Caicos. The Mandalay’s vision, for instance will only be fully realised in 20 years time.
The buoyant property market, driven largely by British and North American, has seen beachfront property jump by up to 25 percent a year for the past few years, due to the fact that most development is low density and high quality.
“The Spirit of Turks and Caicos Islands,” a new Airbus A319 aircraft dedicated to flying the Fort Lauderdale, Providenciales and Grand Turk route is increasing the airlift to the British Crown Territory.
“Spirit Airlines is coming into the market at an opportune time when tourism and development is on an upsurge,” says Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, Floyd Hall of the Turks & Caicos Islands.
“While the island of Providenciales has several other carriers, the addition of Spirit Airlines with its low cost structure will lead to competitive prices overall. And, as for Grand Turk, the country’s capital, the airlines’ presence will be refreshing, opening up an international gateway for many to visit the exceptional dive sites, and historical landmarks that the city is known for.”
Hotel mogul Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart is also planning to expand his Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort & Spa, with the addition of 180 suites by next winter, as well as create what he proclaims will be “the biggest water park in the Caribbean.”