By Jeff Weinstein, Hotels Magazine
The Cayman Islands’ biggest commercial real estate developer and the driving force behind Kimpton Hotels’ first Caribbean property, Kimpton Seafire Resort [+] Spa, Dart Real Estate is taking a shine to the hotel business and has its sights set on more, in one of the world’s most famous tax shelters and perhaps beyond.
Under the leadership of founder Ken Dart, the company over many years has developed more than US$1.3 billion in mixed-use, residential, commercial, recreational, educational and hospitality properties throughout the Cayman Islands. It is also on the cusp of developing a second hotel property, a 5-star resort located on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach whose opening is planned for 2020. Dart is working with local government on beach enhancements just north of its Kimpton property. With 1,500 feet of beachfront, Dart [Real Estate] President Jackie Doak says its second Cayman hotel is in the early stages of visioning and design. Still unbranded, it will likely be smaller than the Kimpton [Seafire] with 150 to 180 rooms, plus residential.
Doak said the Cayman [Islands] are missing a villa-type, low-scale property nestled into the landscape, and other holdings in its portfolio might lend themselves to hotels in two other areas – Starfish Point and Barkers on the Island. “Starfish is pristine land surrounded by water, while Barkers is more eco-focused with plenty of shrubbery,” she said.
While Doak said Dart will easily achieve its plan to invest another US$400 million on the island over the next 10 years, timing on hotels depends on market and ability to increase airlift. “It’s a well-paced strategy based on demand and airlift,” she adds.
She said increased lift is crucial with the likes of a Margaritaville resort coming into the market along with a just-announced Hyatt project. “We get about 380,000 travelers per year, and it would be beneficial to grow the market,” she said. “It is not hard to fill rooms yet, and the airport is renovating to expand capacity.”
Along with the pending completion of residences at the Kimpton property, Doak said the company is looking elsewhere around the Caribbean for hotel development opportunities. “We’ve appreciated and enjoyed hotel ownership and have an appetite to look at other opportunities,” said Doak, adding that Ken Dart’s status can open many doors to opportunity. He has been working and living in the Cayman [Islands] since the 1980s.
“We are 100% owned and financed by Dart. There is no debt,” Doak added. “We have immense opportunities with Mr. Dart as the shareholder. We are very aligned with what makes for a successful project and customer experience.”
It also appears Doak is predisposed to hospitality development. “I come from a background where hospitality and making people feel welcome is very important,” she says. “Participating in meaningful way on conceptualization and birth of a hotel has been very rewarding.”