This post started out as a raving review of my stay at the Hyatt Curaçao earlier this month. Unfortunately, as I was writing this post I learned that the owners of the property had ousted Hyatt in a middle of the night koo.
Sadly, this is a great loss for travelers. My stay at the Hyatt Curaçao was hands down the best stay that I've ever had. The resort and its staff were perfect and worked together like a well oiled machine. Unfortunately, all that was lost when the owners ousted the existing management and brought in a whole new management team. The owners have made a mistake, the perfection and chemistry that Hyatt had with it's staff and management is not something one can recreate with a new management team. By replacing the management team, they've removed the foundation that built such an amazing organization.
Situations like this are rare, but not unique, however in the end the losers are always the travelers. Aside from the lack of consistency and the loss of trust to the travelers, in most documented cases, the owners end up having to pay a substantial fee to the ousted management company for breach of contract. With owners so focused on financial performance, they aren't going to eat the cost of the fee, so it will get passed onto the travelers. Two recent cases involved what is now the Park Hyatt in Carlsbad, CA where Four Seasons was ousted in 2009 and a second case with the Waikiki Edition hotel which ousted Marriott last year, in both cases, the management company walked away with a large chunk of cash after being ousted.
The owners claim that the property was operating at a loss and that Hyatt was not managing the property poorly. The owners believe that the property should summon $350 a night and I know my stay was $169 a night. Even at that rate, the occupancy rate allegedly hovered around 50%. So why is the property so undervalued and yet still empty? Easy, Curaçao is not easy to get to and prices aren't exactly cheap. Unlike neighboring Aruba which has dozens of flights year round, Curaçao has two flights from the states that year round operated by American. United has seasonal service during the summer, but that runs for about 6-8 weeks, nothing extensive. Due to the limited options, flight prices are also higher thus limiting the potential clientele further. For me, the only reason I ended up at this hotel was because of the incredible rate and knowing it was a Hyatt, if it wasn't for those two things I would have never even ended up here.
The owners have appointed a company called "Benchmark Hospitality" based out of Houston to manage the property. They have renamed the property the "Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort Curaçao". Benchmark seems to have a number of properties scattered around, but doesn't have the type of visibility a large corporation such as Hyatt or Starwood have. With the loss of the global visibility, access to that chain's frequent travelers is also lost -- my case is a great example of this, if this property hadn't been a Hyatt, it never even would have been an option. Benchmark has made claims that they are going to turn the property around and help meet the owner's objectives, but that is likely doomed for failure given the reduction in potential clientele (with the loss of the Global name and it's loyalty program) and the limited transport options.
To Hyatt, the loss of this property is more than I can express, I cannot say enough about how great it was. To the owners, you are very short sighted and have no idea what you have killed. And lastly, to anyone considering visiting this property, don't. There's no reason to support this type of ownership and management, there are other properties on the island, they deserve your business more.
This property was the best managed property ever. Period. I've never had a stay this amazing and i'm sad to see it be wiped away.