|By Kevin Shereves, Cayman Net News, Grand
Cayman, Cayman IslandsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 12, 2009 --Leader of Government Business and Minister for Tourism, Hon McKeeva Bush, has told owners of the shuttered Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman that the resort must be restored under a comparable brand by year-end.
The former resort remains deserted and in ruins nearly five years after damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The property is situated on prime real estate near Seven Mile Beach and, according to property managers, is not for sale.
"I sent a message to the owner, Asif Bhatia, by way of email and text message because I have had many complaints about the derelict Hyatt property. We have received many complaints about an increase of rodents as a result of the abandoned resort and the nuisance that the property has become," Mr Bush said.
"The ruins take away from the prestige of our famous Seven Mile Beach as well as the environmental effect on a whole."
In addition to his Cayman properties, Mr Bhatia also has interests in major London hotels. His mother, Gulshen Bhatia, created the London Plaza Hotels. The family has been quoted by the Sunday Times as being worth around US$140 million with assets including two Hilton hotels in Central London, the Grosvenor in Kensington and the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham, in addition to the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman.
"My understanding is that the owner, Asif Bhatia, is also linked with the Hilton hotel name and we cannot simply sit around and let the environment continue to be affected as a result of the derelict property. The country cannot continue to be put on hold as a result of this," Mr Bush said.
According to resort management, the long awaited refurbishment of the property has been delayed due to ongoing legal battles over the insurance claim filed following Hurricane Ivan.
Bill Powers, General Manager of the Grand Cayman Beach Suites (GCBS) said: "Embassy Investments is the owner of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman and they also own the Grand Cayman Beach Suites. My understanding is that there is an insurance claim that is being disputed in the courts and that the owner of the property is still very committed to the Hyatt and to the Cayman Islands as well.
"I have recently been informed by the owner, Mr Asif Bhatia, that the property is not for sale. It is also my understanding that it is his intention to reopen the property once the insurance situation is finally settled."
Although the resort's Beach Suites have been refurbished, the main buildings remain in their damaged and deteriorating state.
Since 2004, the Esterley Tibbetts Highway has divided the site, making the empty buildings and derelict tennis courts clearly visible to motorists and passersby.
"Some insurers paid their share of the claim more than four years ago which enabled the Grand Cayman Beach Suites to be reinstated within three months of Hurricane Ivan. In stark contrast, Houston Casualty company, several Lloyds of London syndicates, Wurttembergische Versicherung AG and Ecclesiastical Insurance Office Plc have not paid a single cent under the same policy despite their clear obligation to either pay for the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan or, at their option, to reinstate the hotel," said Mr Powers.
Mr Bush brushed aside the insurance dispute: "We cannot wait for any further insurance issues to be dealt with because it has been over four years now and it is working against the country, and it is not in keeping with what the country is all about. I am not sure that I can do anything about the insurance situation."
Mr Powers added: "Mr Bhatia has already contacted McKeeva Bush, Leader of Government Business, to update him on our situation in relation to these insurers' ongoing failure to indemnify us either by, at their option, reinstating the hotel or paying the agreed settlement figure in accordance with the terms of our insurance policy."
He said that a settlement figure had been agreed in Cayman's courts, but had not been paid by the insurers.
Mr Powers said the causes of the problem lay in "the failure of insurance companies to honour their obligations under insurance policies and the inability of the local judiciary to properly and promptly deal with disputes relating to insurance claims".
He then placed responsibility for addressing these issues with the Cayman Islands government.
"Accordingly, we trust that the government is now focusing on addressing these key underlying issues for the Island, which are also the root causes of our problem at the hotel. So proper and prompt action by the government on this front should automatically lead to a quicker resolution of our situation at the hotel as well," Mr Powers said.
However, Mr Bush maintained his stance that the property must be refurbished by the end of the year, regardless of the ongoing insurance settlement dispute.
Mr Bush said: "Many other people did not get a fair share as a result of their insurance claims brought forward as a result of Hurricane Ivan and there must be a resolution to this by year-end."
To see more of the Cayman Net News or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.caymannetnews.com/.
Copyright (c) 2009, Cayman Net News, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA. LSE:ELLA,