Andrew Cohan: Which Caribbean islands are thriving?

Andrew Cohan, managing director for Horwath HTL primarily serving the Sunbelt States and the Caribbean Basin, named Grand Cayman, Dominica, Jamaica and Dominican Republic as Caribbean countries that are doing well. 

Horwath HTL is a global leader in hotel, tourism and leisure consulting with 45 offices, who have successfully carried out over 20,000 assignments for private and public clients. They have been operating for 100 years in the hospitality consulting space.

A seasoned hospitality professional with extensive real estate, marketing and account management skills in North America and Latin America, Cohan has consulted for projects with leading branded management companies such as Canyon Ranch, Six Senses, Montage, Auberge and Alila. He has a particular affinity for wellness projects and a deep understanding of what both developers and governments face in providing the services guests expect in the islands of the Caribbean.

The Winners

The Grand Hyatt Hotel & Residence, Cayman Islands.

The Grand Hyatt Hotel & Residence, Cayman Islands.

Certain islands are doing extremely well, Cohan said:

— Grand Cayman has seen a nice bump, with big growth recently: they recently saw 100,000 visitors and aim to get to 150,000. One of their recent products, Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort and Spa, is a wellness-themed resort. Hyatt Hotels Corporation has announced a major new hotel project in the Cayman Islands. The Grand Hyatt will include 351 rooms, with layouts ranging from studio suites to one, two and three-bedroom units set along a seafront “eco-walk.” The development will consist of a mix of hotel rooms and residences.

— Dominica was damaged by the 2017 hurricanes, and hopes to come back strong in the ecotourism area. They also have amazing scuba diving and mineral hot springs. One year after the hurricane, one of their big resorts has reopened, and they are looking at what the next generation wants. 

— Jamaica has a substantial size and population, and a sizeable, generally well-educated work force, said Cohan. Their tourism has suffered because of a reputation for being unsafe, which is why all-inclusives do so well there. There is now more activity in Kingston, which has become more stable. The leisure travel market is looking for music, reggae, culture, food and natural healing. 

— AC by Marriott is partnering with Sandals on the 220-room AC Kingston on a five-acre site in Jamaica's capital. It's part of a mixed-use development, marking the first time that Sandals will own and operate a hotel and brand that it did not create and that is not an all-inclusive property. Marriott will franchise the hotel name to Sandals. The AC Kingston's rates will include lodging only; meals and beverages will be separate expenses.

— It's not just the chains that like Jamaica; other hotels are aimed at more of a niche traveller looking for great sports, music and homeopathic medicine. “There's booming all-inclusive resort development,” said Cohan. “There's a glow over the island. It's more upbeat, with lots of construction. It's good to see,” said Cohan. Jamaica was not damaged by the hurricanes.

Moon Palace Punta Cana.

Moon Palace Punta Cana.

— In the Dominican Republic, Palace Resorts has recently broken ground on the new Moon Palace Punta Cana, a project whose investment will exceed $600 million. The new luxury all-inclusive is the first-ever Palace Resorts project in the Dominican Republic. The company already has 11 resorts across the Mexican Caribbean and in Jamaica. “At 2,100 rooms, it will be like a cruise ship by the beach,” said Cohan.

Rewards and Challenges in the Caribbean

Challenges of working in the Caribbean include import tariffs — waiting on goods coming in. “Miami Beach has 100,000 residents — that being the average population of some of the islands,” said Cohan who lives in Miami. “On these Caribbean islands, the government has to keep everything running, from national defence to fixing potholes. 

“You have to give them a lot of credit for having things be as easy to get around, when you understand that they don't have the efficiency of tax collection, fraud control or policing. It's easy to criticize what's lacking, when something that would take three months in Florida, takes 1.5 years on some islands.

“I can't imagine what the taxes would be. They're doing a lot with a little.

“The advantages are that the Caribbean is one of the most beautiful places in the world. In Curacao in January, you can float on your back and reach a 40-yard reef.

“One of the things I have seen is how critical sustainability is here. Some of the reefs that are so gorgeous are deteriorating.”