Thursday, June 18, 2009

The end of an era: Sunsail hotel

There has been much talk about this and it certainly looks like after 10 years of operation, Sunsail is finally closing up shop here in Antigua. They were operating on a lease out of The Colonna hotel which is actually an Italian owned property i think. Anyway, the Sunsail brand went through some huge changes in the ten years that it was operating here as it was purchased by different companies. Towards the end i think TUI which is a budget travel company managed to get their hands on it and that was the start of the end. Operating a biz in Antigua is never going to be cheap and you have to be very careful how you run the place.
I had huge problems with Sunsail about a year ago when they were in the middle of changing their managers. The top brass back in the UK seemed to not have a clue about what they were doing and it seemed as though the staff here in Antigua were equally messed about. It's a terrible shame that the hotel as we have known it won't be running anymore. I looked for news on this on their website but it's as if they never had a hotel here. Twitter and other social media networks are buzzing with upset people who wanted to come back here once again and enjoy the typical sunsail Club holiday in the Caribbean.
When i started Adventure Antigua doing my Eco Tour ten years ago it was only with Sunsail. A guy called Roger was the GM there at the moment and he helped me get started and pushed me to get a bigger boat. At first i could just take 6 of his guests at a time, and very quickly we got the Scarab so we could take more. For years Sunsail was my main hotel for Eco Tour passengers as the fun loving outdoors type staying there loved my tours. Here you can see a bunch of Sunsail staff as we passed Hawksbill Hotel. I took them out for the day to say thanks for pushing my biz as hard as they had done. This must be back in 2001 or some time around then.
my old boat
One of the other things that maintained my close relationship with sunsail was that most of their beach staff windsurfed whenever they had time off. In fact, while i was out there windsurfing they would be out before and after work too. I became very close with many of their windsurfing staff and there were many of them. I don't know how many people worked the beach but it was usually about 15 people and almost all of them windsurfed. Many local kids were hired to work the beach and learned about boats and sailing. I hired several of them over the years after they left sunsail. It's very sad to hear that it won't be opening back up for so many reasons and I suppose most of all at the moment is the job losses. At a time when we need all the tourism that we can get and all the employment we can get I think that Tui and the others who may be involved have made a big mistake here.
I suppose that's what will happen when hotels are absentee managed and owned and lease properties in the Caribbean. I have heard that Sandals was looking at the property, but you never know in Antigua. We'll have to see. Still nothing in the news as far as i can tell but the people at Sunsail Clubs UK: 0844 463 6706
say they are not doing biz in Antigua anymore. The staff at the hotel say they haven't heard anything either, and it seems that without any good reason they are being left in the dark. I feel bad for them.