Barely a week after breaking ground on a new Westin in St. Maartens, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has signed a letter of intent to build the Westin Curacao Resort & Casino, a 350-room luxury hotel on the island that houses the capital of the Netherlands Antilles.
Starwood is expected to operate the property, and it will reportedly invest a small amount of debt in the roughly $100 million construction of the project, which should be completed by 2008. The Dutch Antilles pension fund and the local government together are providing an additional $25 million and a long-term ground lease for the project.
The resort is a joint venture between Curacao-based Halabi Real Estate and Westwood Capital, a New York-based concern. They are developing the project under the name JanThiel Resort Development, after the site on JanThielBay in the southern tip of Curacao where the hotel is to be located.
The new hotel--and its 15,000-square-foot Starwood-branded spa--should command top rates for the island, around $400 per night in high season today. But that will rise as air traffic heats up.
Westin Hotels & Resorts is one of Starwood's top brands. It has 121 hotels and resorts in 31 countries and territories. Starwood also owns the W and Sheraton brands, and owns or manages some 850 properties in 95 countries.
The announcement of a new resort and casino marks a ratcheting up of Curacao's ambitions to cater to a broader U.S. market. Hyatt broke ground in late November on its own 350-room resort, and a smaller Renaissance project is also under way; these hotels will join an older Marriott in the city center of the capital, Willemstad.
The island's tourist traffic, especially from America, has been overshadowed for years by its sister, Aruba, which is saturated with high-rise hotels and time shares. By contrast, Curacao has a modest array of resorts catering mainly to a Dutch, British and South American clientèle.
Although the only direct flights to Curacao from the U.S. have long originated in Miami, Continental Airlines will begin a weekly Saturday flight from Newark on Dec. 17 in a test of American Airlines ' market dominance of the Antilles.
The Westin will not be a condo-hotel, says Westwood principal Dan Alpert. Because of the government's support, "this can be a straight hotel," he says. "The number of hotel deals that make sense to invest in without a sales component are few and far between." The developers have hired architects Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe to design the resort.
Starwood has a number of other Caribbean and Latin American properties from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands through Mexico to Chile and Brazil.