|Cayman Net News, Grand Cayman, Cayman
IslandsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
January 7, 2010--A warning in the form of an ultimatum, which was sent to the owner of the abandoned Hyatt Regency resort last July that the premises must either be "sold or restored under a comparable brand" by year end 2009, has not been heeded, according to hospitality industry sources.
"I sent a message to the owner, Asif Bhatia, by way of email and text message," said Premier and Minister for Tourism, Hon McKeeva Bush, "because I have had many complaints about the derelict Hyatt property."
The abandoned building attracts numerous rodents, as well as numerous complaints. "The ruins take away from the prestige of our famous Seven Mile Beach," said Mr Bush, "as well as the environmental effect on the whole."
The resort property suffered major damage by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 that remains unrepaired. The empty buildings and overgrown tennis courts are clearly visible to motorists and pedestrians along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.
In its heyday, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman was a five-storey resort with 289 guestrooms across from Seven Mile Beach, and its guests had direct access to the beach.
The property was developed in the 1980s as part of the 36-hectare (89-acre) Britannia Resort and reigned for several years as the largest and one of the trendiest hotels in the country.
The property is not for sale, according to Bill Powers, General Manager of the Grand Cayman Beach Suites, who said he has spoken directly to Mr Bhatia. The restoration of the property has been delayed due to an insurance claim filed following Hurricane Ivan.
"My understanding is that there is an insurance claim that is being disputed in the courts," said Mr Powers, "and that the owner intends to reopen the resort once the insurance claim is settled."
The insurance companies involved include Houston Casualty Company, several Lloyds of London syndicates, Wurttembergische Versicherung AG and Ecclesiastical Insurance Office Plc, none of which have paid any portion of the claims, added Mr Powers.
Mr Bhatia holds interest in major hotels in the UK, and his mother, Gulshen Bhatia, created the London Plaza Hotels. The family's fortune has been estimated by the Sunday Times as being around US$140 million with assets that include two Hilton hotels in central London, the Grosvenor in Kensington, and the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham, as well as the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman and the Grand Cayman Beach Suites.
Mr Powers told Cayman Net News that a settlement figure agreed upon in Cayman's courts remained unpaid by the insurers, and that the real problem was "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."
Mr Bush said that many people did not get a fair share as a result of their insurance claims resulting from Hurricane Ivan, but that the country can ill afford to continue to wait for insurance relief "because the delay is working against the country."
The Premier did not offer a solution at this time, however, and efforts to contact Mr Bahtia were unsuccessful.
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