Press > OBM International COO Mike Wilson to Discuss Sustainable Tourism at Caribbean & Latam Conference

OBM International COO Mike Wilson to Discuss Sustainable Tourism at Caribbean & Latam Conference

People, Tourism

OBM International COO Mike Wilson joined a leading group of Hospitality and Lifestyle experts at the 2017 Bisnow Caribbean & LATAM Forum in Miami. Wilson spoke to the audience about what it takes to have a successful sustainable tourism product in tropical and island nation locations throughout the region. Topics addressed during the panel included what makes hospitality and asset investment in the Caribbean and LATAM markets appealing and how to differentiate hospitality products through design and what are the factors driving growth.

Wilson shared insights garnered from OBM International’s work throughout the Caribbean including recent work developing the Sustainable Tourism Development Plan for Antigua and Barbuda. Wilson shared key metrics from the Plan’s success: tourism expenditure increases 102% and over $1.1 billion in new and redevelopment tourism projects have begun since the plan’s adaptation, including the much-anticipated Half Moon Bay, also being designed by OBM International.

Speaking to an audience looking to invest in the region and evidenced by keynote presenter Governor Ricardo Rossello, remarking that Puerto Rico “is open for business,” the inaugural Caribbean & Latam focused event attracted nearly 100 developers, real estate, and construction industry professionals.

READ MORE
Press > Expert tips for buying a private island – and upgrading its amenities

Expert tips for buying a private island – and upgrading its amenities

Tourism, Luxury

You Just Bought a Private Island. Now what?

The immediate benefit of buying your own private island is the opportunity to custom design your own paradise. However, the path to creating the ultimate tropical fantasy isn’t easy. There are the pleasant aspects of course, such as the planning process which includes determining how you will use and decorate the space; but deciphering local regulations and estimating a budget to get an island up and running often require expert advisement.

Bloomberg called on OBMI CEO Doug Kulig for his years of experience designing developments on remote islands such as Oil Nut Bay and Scrub Island, to help guide buyers through the typically challenging process. In chronological order, Kulig maps out how he as an architect advises his clients on how to successfully develop private islands.

Kulig suggests completing the myriad approvals for regulations, restrictions, and processes be done prior to purchase. “The island can have environmental concerns, usage concerns, you also have to understand if you’re getting a clear title to the land,” says Kulig. “Only then do you figure out what the development rights are.”

Figuring out what you want to do with the island is the more fun part of the development process. Do you want the house designed as an informal bungalow, with indoor/outdoor spaces, or do you want something more formal? “We talk about lifestyle,” Kulig says. “When are people going to use the island and how are they going to use it? It’s more than just whimsy. If you’re considering a wooden beach-house type of structure, you want to consider storm impacts in the area,” says Kulig.

READ MORE
Press > Photographer: Ben Popick PURSUITS You Just Bought a Private Island. Now What?

Photographer: Ben Popick PURSUITS You Just Bought a Private Island. Now What?

Tourism, Luxury

You see it listed online: a seven-acre island off the coast of Belize, surrounded by clear blue water and striking distance from an untouched barrier reef. Price: 492,000 pounds, or around $760,000. “You couldn’t buy a 1 bedroom in Williamsburg for that price,” you say to yourself and after a few clicks and a phone call, you’re the proud owner of a tropical haven 12 miles from the resort town of San Pedro (immortalized by Madonna's La Isla Bonita).

So… what next?

There’s probably no plumbing on your new island. There may not even be a house. Or structures at all. You need help.

This is when you call someone like Doug Kulig, the chief executive officer of Miami-based architecture firm and developer OBMI. He has designed and built a 23,500-square-foot estate on a secluded tip of the British Virgin Islands, a hillside area on the southwest coast of Antigua and other houses and resorts throughout the Caribbean. Kulig has years of experience building on remote islands and he helpfully laid out your next moves (in chronological order, no less) for Bloomberg.

1. Figure out the regulations

So glamorous already: “The island can have environmental concerns, usage concerns, you have to understand if you’re getting a clear title to the land,” says Kulig. “Only then do you figure out what the development rights are.” Hopefully you will have done this before purchase, but even so, the myriad approvals for regulations, restrictions, and processes, Kulig says, can easily take three to six months.

2. Figure out what you want to do with the island

This part is more fun, because it involves the least tough choices of all time: Will you want a main house and a few guest houses? Staff quarters? Do you want the house designed as an informal bungalow, with indoor/outdoor spaces, or do you want something more formal? “We talk about lifestyle,” Kulig says. “When are people going to use the island and how are they going to use it? It’s more than just whimsy. If you’re considering a wooden, beach-house type of structure, you want to consider storm impacts in the area,” says Kulig. “Do you want to design for a 25-year storm, or a 50-year storm, or even a 100-year storm?” The latter would involve a house made from concrete, which presents its own set of logistical hurdles.

You'll also need to figure out how you want to get to the island. If you're planning to fly into a nearby airport and take a shallow boat to the island, great. If you're planning to glide in on your 200-foot mega-yacht, you're going to have to build a different kind of infrastructure entirely. Same goes for laying down an airstrip. Kulig recommends proceeding with caution: "Come in with the notion that you're going to respect the land as much as possible," he says. "Of course, you can't expect not to touch anything. Development by its very nature has an impact."

3. Figure out how you’re going to stay alive on the island

Once you have a rough idea of how often you’ll be using the island and how many people will be with you, you'll have to determine how you’re going to get water and electricity. Most of the time, Kulig says, maintaining a water supply entails a combination of water collection and reverse-osmosis facilities. “Water collection’s not a big deal,” he says. “You’re going to collect whatever’s available, and then let’s say you’ve got a small osmosis plant that’s slowly producing water all the time. Let’s say it makes 5,000 gallons a month and you visit only three times a year; you’ll have all the water you’d ever need.”

To power that energy-intensive reverse-osmosis facility, you’ll need solar panels and equipment to store that power (or run an underwater cable from the nearest power source) and to deal with water once you’ve used it, you’ll need some sort of waste water treatment/recycling facility (you presumably want your crystal-clear ocean to stay that way), which in turn requires even more energy.

Unsurprisingly, these facilities represent a significant upfront cost, although Kulig is hesitant to say how much (he estimates “low hundreds of thousands of dollars” for the water treatment and collection and because solar panels are getting so cheap, so fast, he doesn’t want to guess what it would cost a year down the line).

4. Figure out how you’re going to get everything out there

Luckily, this isn’t really up to you. It’s up to whichever local contractor you’ve hired to help organize construction. "We can't just parachute in and know all the answers," Kulig says. "We pair with local groups." But if you’re trying to budget it out (see #5), you should try to get a general sense whether or not materials will be getting to the island via barge and if there’s isn’t an existent dock, a channel needs to be dredged before boats can reach the island. Another alternative is by plane. “We did huge projects in Haiti where there were no docks,” says Kulig. “We just landed planes on the beach and dragged the supplies off with a tractor.”

5. Make a budget

Kulig can’t give an estimate for how much it would cost to get an island up and running, he says. “It could be around $250 to $350 per square foot for a house in Belize,” he says. “But that’s just raw construction. It doesn’t include solar, or water, or docks, or landscape, or whether or not you’d want to pay for a five-ton air conditioning unit.” Could you build a reasonably comfortable, self-sustainable house for less than $1 million? “Absolutely not,” Kulig says.

6. Figure out how to make it pleasant

Back to the fun stuff: You've already got a rough sense of what your aesthetic is going to be (see #2), but you actually have to furnish it. In the city, a decorator is a luxury, but for a remote island, where you'll have to determine which furniture weathers best, which fabrics are more prone to rot, and which finishes deal better with humidity, an interior architect or decorator is closer to a necessity. "People might bring in their design architect from New York to do the house and she might then call a local architect for help," Kulig says.

6. Wait (and wait)

Because this is, after all, a remote island, everything takes longer. “Figure two to three years,” Kulig says. “People might promise you a shorter period, but that’s not taking into account that after you hire a contractor, they have to mobilize people and get their materials in order.”

7. Move in

It’s that simple. (After the years of logistics and millions of dollars, that’s is.)

 

For the best in travel, food, drinks, fashion, cars, and life, sign up for the Pursuits newsletter. Delivered weekly.

Press > OBMI to Develop Antigua Sustainable Tourism Development Plan

OBMI to Develop Antigua Sustainable Tourism Development Plan

Projects, Tourism, Investment, Sustainability

Strides are being made toward the preparation of a Sustainable Tourism Development Plan (STDP) which will be used to develop and set guidelines for the future enhancement of Antigua and Barbuda as a tourist destination. The Government has secured the professional services of consultants OBMI and T&L Europraxis to partner on this project, to deliver the STDP and all related master planning, business planning, and negotiations.

OBM International (OBMI), one of the world’s leading international architectural and planning firms with nine global offices, has a deep understanding of the vast opportunities for tourism investment in Antigua. The 75-year-old company has maintained an office in the region for 25 years and has completed notable local projects, including Sugar Ridge Hotel, Hermitage Bay, Carlisle Bay Hotel, and Blue Waters Hotel.

OBMI was recently commissioned to prepare a Sustainable Tourism Development Plan (STDP) for Antigua, which aims to attract foreign capital for tourism development. The project is led by OBMI Antigua Partner Brian D’Ornellas, an island native who has been a trusted advisor to businesses and the government for over two decades.

In partnership with the Tourism Ministry and the Investment Authority, OBMI and their consultant partners, Tourism and Leisure SL (part of the Europraxis Group), will develop a STDP that sets the guidelines for future development of the destination, helps identify specific development projects, and provides a cohesive and structured 10-year roadmap for foreign investors.

Through the STDP, Antigua will continue to enjoy the competitive advantages of an attractive environment, a stable government that is actively involved in the tourism industry, an advantageous tax regime for tourism investment, and a key geographic location in the Caribbean near source markets such as the U.S. The project will also help raise the profile of Antigua, to generate employment and economic growth by creating value for the country’s assets.

 

Press > Market Conditions Prove to be Ideal for Asset Improvements

Market Conditions Prove to be Ideal for Asset Improvements

Tourism, Investment

Despite challenges the Caribbean has faced in the past few years, the future for the industry shows great potential for asset improvements. The prudent hotel owner should now be focusing on repositioning his or her property to preserve investments and prepare for the forecasted market rebound.

The Caribbean hotel industry’s recovery has been slow across the board, having to dig its way out of a loss of 17 percent in ADR during the recession, but in the luxury hotel segment current occupancy levels have climbed higher than in 2008, which is a positive sign for future growth.

The hotel business, as with every industry during these times, is in a constant state of flux, and with the changes in customer expectation, there is a dire need to rethink, reposition, and refurbish existing properties. These were key strategies recently discussed at the annual Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference in Jamaica, and the Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) Conference in Miami, Florida, USA.

With many obstacles stemming from the challenges facing the global economy, Caribbean hotels have experienced a significant lack of funding for upgrades. The regional banks have been very conservative and will only provide credit to hotel operations with a good track record, a strong operator, and a recognized brand.

While vulture funds have their eyes on distressed properties, banks have been reluctant to push inventory quickly whilst trying to maintain their ratios and taking an “extend and pretend” strategy. Clearly, this is establishing uncertainties in the market. In instances where loans are coming due and renewals demand new equity requirements, property owners may be burdened with forced sales. As the banks are pressured to face these realities, it is expected that the next 18 months will show increased activity with properties coming to market and being purchased for repositioning.

A growing number of new development projects are also creeping into the pre-planning phase, which is an indication that developers are optimistically moving ahead, anticipating that market improvements are expected to surface in the near future. The bar is being raised in the region and some of the older legacy projects that are in need of repositioning will have to undergo renovations to compete with the new lifestyle brands moving in to the Caribbean region.