Tucker’s Point SDO to be debated today

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Rosewood seeks luxury

Pristine, accessible and a great alternative to the Caribbean, those are the first three things that came to the mind of a luxury-marketing expert when asked about Bermuda.
Robert Boulogne, chief operating officer, of the Rosewood Hotels group spoke with The Royal Gazette about why his company is interested in managing Tucker’s Point.
He declined to discuss the pending special development order which could see more than 100 private residences and an additional 100 hotel rooms built on 240-acre Castle Harbour property.
If the SDO passes, the Rosewood Hotels group will take over the management of Bermuda’s only five star hotel. The company focuses on the ‘ultra-luxury’ market and managing one of a king hotels that reflect the location’s culture, history and geography.
Before becoming the COO of Rosewood in 2005 Mr Boulogne was the vice president of the company’s sales and marketing division and responsible for a new branding and advertising campaign.
He said both Bermuda and Tucker’s Point would benefit from his company’s expertise.
“People have a good perception of Bermuda when they are asked,” he said. “The problem is they’re just not thinking about it.”
He said his company wants to offer people an ultra-luxury option, which currently does not exist on Bermuda. While there are many good hotels on the Island Mr Boulogne said his company would be looking to offer more in terms of luxury than is currently available.
“For us it is a good move, people don’t want to go to the Caribbean in April to September because it is too hot,” he said. ‘This will be a great alternative to the Caribbean for our clients.
“People have this perception that Bermuda is the Caribbean, but it is not.
“In terms of accessibility, it is very close to the US east coast and no further away from Texas than the Caribbean. Tucker’s Point accessibility from the airport is also appealing.”
He added that the hotel’s beach was the best in Bermuda in his opinion.
Mr Boulogne said the first thing his company would do if it takes over the management of the hotel is generate “significant” public relations work. He said the company works with all the glossy travel magazines such as ‘Conde Nast’ and ‘Departures’.
“I think we have a big story to tell, that we have a new product,” he said. “We want the media to come and experience Rosewood Tucker’s Point and Bermuda.”
The hotel would also be marketed in their 21 properties around the world.
“We want to develop new customers for Bermuda,” he said. “When you walk into Tucker’s Point you know you are in Bermuda.”

The controversial Special Development Order for the Rosewood Tucker’s Point resort will be debated in the House of Assembly today.

The news was confirmed last night by Government.

Cole Simons, Shadow Minister of the Environment said: “This will be one of the most controversial debates that we have had for some time.”

The SDO would allow the resort to expand onto Quarry Hill and Paynter’s Hill in Hamilton Parish.

The Bermuda National Trust has said it’s “extremely alarmed” that a large swathe of pristine land will be built on under the plans, and “habitats of major significance” will be lost.

The Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce [BEST] and Buy Back Bermuda campaign also expressed concern, with Stuart Hayward of BEST saying: “This area, as we understand it, includes lands from which mostly black families were forcibly removed in the 1920s to enable the promotion of tourism. It is a betrayal to now allow these lands to be sold off as real estate.”

Minister of Environment Walter Roban tabled a Special Development Order [SDO] for the resort in Parliament on February 4. If passed and given final approval from the Department of Planning and Development Applications Board, an additional 78 private residences and 70 hotel rooms will be built on the existing 240-acre site. It would be the third SDO granted to the property in 16 years.

Such orders allow developers to expedite the construction process and bypass some of the planning regulations, such as periods of public input. They are designed to respond to development needs that are of strategic national importance or priority. The Environment Minister is only allowed to grant one if national importance can be proved.

According to Mr Roban, Rosewood Tucker’s Point is an essential part of Bermuda’s tourism product and “critically needs the assistance of Government” to ensure its long-term viability.

When he tabled the order, he pledged stringent conditions to ensure “the highest level of protection” to the most sensitive areas under the order, including a survey by a cave specialist and “setback buffers” to protect mature or endangered plants.

Mr Simons said last night: “Bermudians are not prepared to pay such a high price to support a very questionable business model which may not bear the fruit that it purports to deliver, especially since Tucker’s Point has had at least three other Special Development Orders granted to them over the years, and the business model is still not as successful as it could have been.

“Bermudians think that the price tag is too high because they are not prepared to give up or compromise their endemic species, open spaces, woodland reserves or coastal reserves for commercial and short term gains. Bermudians think that the price tag is too high because they are not prepared to disrespect or disregard the rich history of the area and the Bermudians who were forced to relocate from their farming communities for the development of our tourism industry back in the twenties.

“Bermudians think that the price tag is too high because they believe that the increased housing stock could have a negative impact on the value of their homes. Bermudians think that the price tag is too high because the resort cannot fill the rooms they have and sell all of the fractional units that they currently own.”–He added: “We are truly supportive of Bermuda’s tourism growth and equally supportive and empathetic to the Tucker’s Point Resort’s development. We hope that for the sake of our people, our environment and tourism, our Government will go back to the drawing board with the management of Tucker’s Point Resort and ask them to further refine and trim back their plans so that a new Special Development Order can be presented to Bermuda and her people. An order that would be more reasonable, more attractive, and less expensive for the people of Bermuda.”

A Ministry of Environment spokeswoman responded by saying: “This Government is highly sensitive to the wishes of Bermuda’s residents. The people are having an opportunity to have their say on the SDO as the application is open to public scrutiny and opinion before it is granted final approval.”

She added: “From a national tourism perspective, it is clearly of critical importance that a prestigious new five star resort, acclaimed and celebrated internationally, and largely funded through on-Island, Bermudian capital, is not seen to fail. Such a scenario would have potentially devastating consequences for our tourism industry as a whole, for the international reputation of Bermuda, for confidence from overseas markets. Taken together, this would present considerable risk to the country. A risk this Ministry does not want to take.”

She also referred to “stringent conditions” attached to the SDO to protect the environment, adding that as compensation, Mangrove Lake together with two areas comprising 7.45 acres and 1.64 acres on the western and northwestern sides of White Crest Hill, are proposed to be donated to the Government for conservation management purposes.

“The Government looks forward to the continued public and soon-to-be realised parliamentary debate on this proposal,” she added.

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Published Feb 28, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated Feb 28, 2011 at 9:04 am)

Tucker’s Point SDO to be debated today

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