Azura Bermuda up and running
Amid the pandemic-ravaged tourism season, a new hotel has quietly opened in Bermuda.
Azura Boutique Hotel and Residences, on the South Shore in Warwick, had geared up for a grand opening in May, but that plan fell victim to Covid-19.
John Bush, developer of Azura, said he decided instead on a limited opening this year until the demand builds up in 2021. The hotel is up and running with an initial staff of 12.
“We have a limited number of rooms, but the demand for those has been very strong from locals on staycations and also, now, from people flying in,” Mr Bush told The Royal Gazette.
“We have a group due to fly in on a private jet, who will take up a three-bedroom waterfront villa and a two-bedroom villa next to the pool.
“Staycations have also been very popular and next weekend we're fully sold out.”
Azura's business model is built on the sale of hotel residences, giving buyers the flexibility to use them personally or put all or part of the residence back into hotel's room inventory.
Several owners from New York were staying on site, one of whom plans to stay for several months, using Bermuda as a base from where to work remotely, Mr Bush said.
Construction work continues on parts of the site, formerly home to the Surf Side Bach Club. When complete, Azura will have 29 residences, providing up to 65 rooms.
Mr Bush said real estate demand had been strong, with 90 per cent of all available residences in Phase 1 and Phase 2 sold.
Two of the sales were secured through online viewings and transactions in April and May when the island's borders were closed.
Only one of the 15 residences built during Phase 1 of construction is still to be sold. All eight of the residences in the clifftop Edgewater Building, now under construction in Phase 2 with a target completion date of April 2021, have already been purchased.
Buyers include Bermudians and non-Bermudians, Mr Bush said. He added that work-permit holders were eligible to buy the properties under their classification of hotel residences.
Most of the units are priced between $1 million and $2 million, Mr Bush said.
Advantages for buyers — provided they participate in the hotel programme — include no licence fee at purchase and five years of land tax waived.
Mr Bush said: “We have two owners who have bought multiple units, one to use themselves and the others purely to put into the hotel inventory, because they believe in the economics on which the hotel operates. That was very gratifying.”
Mr Bush is a Bermudian, as are more than 80 per cent of his investor group. Between 1999 and 2012, he was in charge of a $300 million real estate portfolio at Tucker's Point, which gave him great insights into what buyers look for.
Other developments in Bermuda using the “condo hotel” model include The Loren, the new St Regis Hotel being built in St George's and the Bermudiana Beach Hotel.
Mr Bush said: “I structured the offering at Azura at a price point that was underserved. I do fear that some of the product out there is more expensive that the market wants.
“If you try to sell a bunch of $3 million or $4 million condos, it takes a long time to sell those in Bermuda.”
Phase 3 of construction at Azura, new to the market this week, will include six residences, perched at the highest point of the property with exceptional views overlooking the ocean and featuring an infinity-edge rooftop pool.
The strength of Azura's sales has put the project on a sound financial footing, with debts almost paid off.
“When we finish the building that's under construction by next April, we will have zero bank debt and that gives us enormous operating flexibility,” Mr Bush said.
Amenities available to guests include pool and pool terrace, private beach and fitness centre. Opening of the planned restaurant is being held off until next spring.
Azura's poolside bar is open to the public for happy hour on Saturdays from 5pm to 9pm. Covid-19 restrictions mean numbers must be limited to 50.
The basic rate for a room is $450 a night, or $4,000 a night for a three-bedroom villa. Locals are being offered a 25 per cent discount.
Mr Bush acknowledges that these are tough times for tourism, but believes Bermuda has a bright future.
“It will take us a while to get back to our pre-Covid numbers, as airlift gradually comes back and personal behaviours change,” he said.
“Having said that, I believe we're going to get incrementally more visitors to Bermuda and more investors in hotel properties like Azura.
“The way we've handled Covid-19 successfully, the way that as an island nation we can manage things in a way that larger countries can't, gives us an advantage in the marketplace.”
Travel habits were changing, he said, with many probably looking to stay closer to home.
Mr Bush added: “We are 90 minutes away from the largest concentration of wealth in the world, the area from Boston down to Atlanta.
“We're safe and it's beautiful. You can't imagine that won't help us. We have short-term pain ahead of us, but long-term benefits.”
• For more information, visit www.azurabermuda.com or call 232-9000