The San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino has major plans in the pipeline, starting with an $80 million renovation of the 404 rooms in its main tower.
Joaquín Cruz, marketing manager of the beachfront property in the Condado sector of San Juan, said the project is set to begin in August and should be ready in December 2019.
To avoid major interruptions, the hotel will close four floors at a time, comprising about 100 rooms, to renovate in phases. The rooms will be modeled after the 123 rooms recently redone at the second tower, which feature an ultra-modern color palette of grays and white.
That nine-story component of the property was severely damaged by Hurricane María in 2017, Cruz said. In all the iconic property that flies the Marriott flag, but is owned by XLD Group, sustained $50 million in damages from the storm, although it remained in operation during and immediately after the hurricane.
“It took a year and a half to bring those 123 rooms back into our inventory, partly due to insurance-related issues. The owners had to take out a $12 million loan from Marriott to be able to finish that project,” he said, adding that estimated losses did not include the cost of business interruption.
The renovation coincided with the renewal of the contract with Marriott, signed earlier this year to ensure it will fly its flag on the property for an additional 30 years, Cruz said.
“XLD is constantly with us, backing us. The president of the company was here a few weeks ago, with 25 potential investors looking for properties and tourism-related businesses,” Cruz said.
Upon taking over the property, XLD renovated the Marriott’s pool area and main restaurant, which has been renamed as Gimbambó. In all, the 123 redesigned rooms and other facilities were part of a $20 million investment planned prior to the hurricane.
Now, Marriott is reporting an occupancy level of more than 90%, which he attributed to a market compression related to the hotels that remained closed after the storm — which has reduced the number of available rooms by about 1,000 — a rebirth of the vacation travel market, and the buzz generated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jimmy Fallon in the beginning of the year.
“Yes, the attention they brought to Puerto Rico definitely helped bring tourists who may have been hesitant about whether Puerto Rico was back after the storm,” he said.
In 2020, the owners of the Marriott hotel will open a new sushi and poke bar near the Stellaris Casino, responding to the positive response to the menu at the Red Coral Lounge bar.
“It will be called Ohan, which means rice in Japanese. We expect it to open by the end of July. It will be about 600 square feet and will accommodate about 10 to 12 customers,” he said.
Also in the pipeline for mid-2020 is a makeover of the property’s meeting spaces and the casino.