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Slowly and surely, Azura becomes a tourism mainstay

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Room with a view: A room at the new Seascape building at Azura. (Photograph supplied)

The Azura hotel is quietly becoming one of the island’s largest hotel properties as it prepares to welcome guests to a new building of rooms.

John Bush, developer of the South Shore property, which straddles the border of Warwick and Paget, said the condo hotel’s new Seascape building is complete, with only a few finishing touches needed before it is ready for visitors.

Meanwhile work is under way on a revamped Nautilus property immediately to Azura’s west, which Mr Bush said will be a separate resort with a separate ownership entity, but shared amenities.

“We have this good core resort and we are expanding the scope and the scale, which will get us up to about 80 hotel keys, which is really an ideal size boutique hotel,” he said.

“As crazy as it is to say it these days, that puts us among the largest resorts in Bermuda. It’s bigger than the Reefs, similar to Cambridge Beaches. It puts us in the upper level of Bermuda tourism and frankly we are proud of it.

“It has been hard getting there, starting with a falling apart Surf Side Beach Club that Tourism had closed down because it was frankly an embarrassment. To bring it to this is extremely gratifying.”

View from the new Seascape building at Azura. (Photograph supplied)

Mr Bush said Azura’s business model – in which people buy residences and then put all or part of them into the hotel programme – had helped to buffer the property during Covid.

“Some owners put all of their unit in, some put part of their unit in – as part of the programme, owners have to put at least one bedroom in for at least six months of the year and virtually everyone does far more than that,” he said.

“We have three owners who have bought multiple units – one for their own use and putting a room into the programme on that with the entirety of the rest of the units in the hotel programme.

“One of our owners bought four units, so they have not only bought into the belief of Azura as a resort for them to use, but also the reality of the hotel income stream because they have invested with their cash, and that’s very gratifying.”

The new Seascape building at Azura. (Photograph supplied)

Nagma Walker, Azura’s general manager, added that the hotel also benefited from digital nomads who chose to take advantage of the Government’s Work from Bermuda programme.

Mr Bush added: “Some of the companies in town had people coming down for three or six months, and we rented them hotel stays. It was a saving grace.

“We’re only seven or eight minutes from the centre of town, so we can attract someone from the corporate community much easier than, say, Cambridge Beaches or St Regis.”

Mr Bush said that the hotel’s first year of operation had garnered the property several rave reviews, but also taught the team a few lessons.

“One of the things we have learnt is to stop building things in front of hotel guests – which we have done,” he said.

“We also had a restaurant, but we received feedback that based on the quality of everything else we had here, we needed a higher level restaurant.

“As we speak we are installing an exhaust system which will allow a fully functioning kitchen so that from later this Spring we will have a high-functioning restaurant and bar.”

Despite the challenges, he said the hotel was able to reach its revenue goals for 2022 and expects a stronger 2023.

Nagma Walker, general manager of Azura, with John Bush, the developer behind the Warwick resort. (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

Ms Walker said that while the first quarter of this year is fairly quiet for bookings, the hotel is seeing stronger numbers for the second quarter.

“We are very optimistic that we will have a better year than 2022, which was a great year given what we have all been through over the last couple of years,” she said.

Mr Bush added that while other condo hotel properties are in the works, such as the Bermudiana Beach Resort which is set to open this year, he was looking forward to the competition.

“I am a huge fan of the idea that a rising tide lifts all ships,” he said. “I want the competition. I want more development.

“The St Regis development, Ariel Sands and others, what they will do is bring more capacity, which will increase airlift, which brings more visitors here and brings more marketing dollars for exposure.

“We have a great product. We can compete with anybody so we don’t fear competition. We want them to come in.”

A rooftop pool at the Seascape building of Azura. (Photograph supplied)

He said that while hotel development is difficult in Bermuda, the condo hotel model of the Azura meant that they were able to pay off the bank loan for the project this week.

“Literally today, we are paying off the bank loan, so we now have a high quality product with no debt on it,” Mr Bush said.

With the growth of the resort, Ms Walker said more jobs for Bermudians are coming online.

“We are looking for all positions in food and beverage,” she said. “We are looking for executive chefs, we are looking for regular chefs, servers and bartenders to ready our restaurant opening in hopefully mid March or early April.

“What’s amazing is that almost 95 per cent of the staff here is Bermudian, young Bermudians, who are excited and vested in the success of Azura. It’s very encouraging.”

The new Seascape building at Azura. (Photograph supplied)

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Published January 19, 2023 at 1:10 pm (Updated January 19, 2023 at 1:10 pm)

Slowly and surely, Azura becomes a tourism mainstay

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