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Sunwing to start construction of Planet Hollywood at Great Bay

Construction of the luxury hotel brand, Planet Hollywood Resorts, will soon take place on the beachfront grounds formerly occupied by the Great Bay Beach Hotel, St. Maarten. 

Described as a destination unto itself for accommodations, dining and entertainment, details of the 450 Deluxe rooms of Planet Hollywood St Maarten Resort, were given to Tourism Minister Stuart Johnson on Thursday this week by the developer, Sunwing Travel Group. Sunwing will leverage its unique vertical integration with distribution capabilities supported by airline, retail, and wholesale tour operations, across multiple source markets to maximize the occupancy of the hotel. 

Considering that St. Maarten is well known as the Caribbean's premier entertainment and party destination, the developer has also designed a Sky Lounge and Sports Bar with a Night Club. As part of the new development, Sunwing will reconstruct the water channel which when completed will be an environmentally sound solution to the issues faced with channelling water from the freshwater pond to the ocean at Great Bay. 

Demolition of the Great Bay Beach Hotel, which was devastated by hurricane Irma in 2017, began a few months ago and is slated to be completed within the next three weeks. Daniel Diaz Executive Vice President of Hotels & Resorts for Sunwing Travel Group and Keith Graham the local representative for Sunwing met with Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication TEATT Minister Johnson on Thursday, August 2, to discuss the future plans for the famous resort brand." Regarding the start of construction, Diaz told Johnson, “Once we obtain the permits we will be ready to start construction right away.” 

The new facility will be completed within 18- months and is being built to meet Miami Dade standards in the United States based on the need of the developer to consider the hurricane-climate in the Caribbean. Johnson pledged the Ministry’s full support to the developers. He said the new resort will positively transform the destination, and solidify its position as the region’s leader in the hospitality industry. Johnson said an essential component of the development is its significant increase of St. Maarten’s bed occupancy at a time when the country is experiencing a revitalization of its Tourism product. 

The direct economic impact of this development will be instantly felt and will pave the way for new local entrepreneurs in the service industry. Johnson said another “important and direct benefit of the investment is the sudden surge in job opportunities for residents.” The developers estimate that when it opens, Planet Hollywood St Maarten will employ close to 1000 people at a ratio of 2.1 per room. In keeping with its employment policy at its other properties in the Caribbean including St. Lucia, Sunwing is committed to maintaining a 97% local employment rate with only 3% earmarked for expats. This development will transform the jobs market because of the labour-intensive nature of tourism and hospitality in general. 

With an investment of this magnitude will come the need for a wide range of supplies and services to maintain the operation. Johnson told the developers that their investment is a significant boost in returning St. Maarten to being the number-one vacation spot in the Caribbean. It further solidifies investor confidence in St. Maarten and its tourism product. Sunwing has committed to resuming airlifts to St. Maarten beginning in March 2019 with one weekly flight from Toronto, which will coincide with the reopening of the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. 

Once construction of Planet Hollywood St Maarten is completed, Sunwing will increase its flights to four per week to service its newest property. The added flights will originate from Montreal and Vancouver and will include service from key US gateways through Vacation Express, a Sunwing Tour Operator company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Planet Hollywood's target group is mainly the mid to high-end clientele from the North American market which provides them with the single largest pool of year-round travellers in the world. The resort’s brand is well loved by celebrities worldwide. Johnson said, “Providing a sustainable Tourism product is the key to having a stable and thriving economy.” 

During the meeting, he updated the Sunwing Vice President on the ‘One St. Maarten Cooperation’ agreement with French Sint Maarten, designed to pool together financial resources and maximize the global impact of destination's marketing campaign. Since marketing is always needed in advance, Johnson encouraged Sunwing to begin working with the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau to strengthen its destination marketing program and promote the soon to be constructed Planet Hollywood St Maarten. At present, the Great Bay Hotel staff are being trained in Hospitality services at the National Institute for Professional Advancement NIPA under the ‘Hospitality 360’ initiative started by Sunwing and the Maho Group of companies in December 2017. 

The training will continue until December 2019, with up to 1150 people from various hotels being trained in good Hygiene practices, First Aid, Hotel and Restaurant Services as well as Roof Repairs and other construction-related services. With this training program in place, the destination will soon have one of the Caribbean’s largest group of professionally trained staff in the hospitality industry. Sunwing Travel Group based in Toronto Canada, purchased the 257-room Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort Casino & Spa just over a year ago before it was devastated by hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017. 

They have since demolished the entire structure in adherence to local requirements. All concrete was crushed and will be reused for concrete mix, while the steel was separated, and the smaller pieces of debris were placed on the Philipsburg Landfill. At present Sunwing Airlines flies to 74 destinations across North and Central America and the Caribbean.

In the photo from the left Tourism Minister Stuart Johnson holds up the design plans for the soon to be constructed Planet Hollywood Resort, while Daniel Diaz Executive Vice President of Hotels & Resorts for Sunwing Travel Group (the developer) looks on. Third from the left is Senior Policy Advisor in the Cabinet of TEATT Regina Labega and local representative for Sunwing Keith Graham.