by Brian Major
Last updated: 8:00 PM ET, Wed March 23, 2016
PHOTO: Camana Bay will be expanded under Dart Realty's plan to purchase a former Hyatt property. (Photo by Brian Major)
Cayman Islands tourism officials are hopeful developer Dart Realty's recent agreement to purchase the former Grand Cayman Hyatt Britannia Resort will ignite a series of hotel and tourism developments in the destination.
The developer last week announced it will purchase the historic hotel, considered by many to be a Grand Cayman tourism icon but closed since suffering major damage during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, from Embassy Investments.
The agreement includes the nine-hole Britannia Golf Course and Beach Suites hotel, located on Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach, which will cease operations in September.
Mark VanDevelde, Dart's CEO, did not reveal the purchase price and also declined to predict the ultimate fate of the former Hyatt building or the closed Beach Suites property. Dart will "study the site, explore the options and master plan its integration into Camana Bay," he said. Dart is the developer behind the highly popular Grand Cayman restaurant, shopping and entertainment district.
The company is also building the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa, a 266-room property expected to open this fall. According to a Cayman Compass report, Dart also plans to build a five-star hotel adjacent to the Kimpton Seafire, as well as a "resort district linking Seven Mile Beach to new restaurants and amenities" plus "a dramatic expansion to Camana Bay."
Moses Kirkconnell, the Cayman Islands' tourism minister, said the "temporary loss of room stock" created by the Beach Suites' closure will not have a long-term impact on the destination's tourism sector.
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"The loss of 53 rooms occurs in September during the typically slower shoulder season," Kirkconnell said. "While this is unfortunate, the room stock will quickly be supplemented by 266 guest rooms when the Kimpton Sea Fire opens its doors two months later."
Of the new development planned for the former Hyatt site, Kirkconnell said "Whatever they ultimately design for these properties, we look forward to the visitor experience being memorable and enjoyable."
The developments as Cayman Islands tourism stakeholders seek to expand what Kirkconnell has previously described as a constrained accommodations sector. The territory is also in the midst of a major renovation of Owen Roberts International Airport and is planning a new $150 million cruise ship pier development in Grand Cayman.
"Over the past year in particular we have seen strong interest in tourism properties from both new entrants and existing developers within the Cayman Islands," said Joseph Hew, a Cayman Islands Tourism Department spokesman, who cited developments "from the Seven Mile Beach area to Bodden Town and East End."
"The sheer number of projects that are either in the planning stages for development, or have transferred ownership, reflects our record breaking air arrivals over the past three years in particular," he added.
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