Kosvogiannis to head rebranded Melia Braco Village resort
Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
Country manager for the Jamaican operations of the Palladium Hotel group, Dimitris Kosvogiannis has taken on a new job as general manager of the newly renamed Melia Jamaica Braco Village, run by Melia Hotels International.
Braco is owned by the National Insurance Fund (NIF), which has forged an agreement with Melia to operate the property under a 15-year lease.
Kosvogiannis, who was appointed general manager in July 2014, is now overseeing the start-up of Melia Braco which he says is on track for a June opening.
Kosvogiannis indicated that he left Palladium because the job he was hired for was essentially overtaken by events. The post of country manager was created specifically by Palladium to address the planned expansion of the Jamaican holdings for a casino gaming, he said.
Palladium two years ago had laid out a US$300m plan to add another 805 rooms to an existing 1,056 at its Point, Hanover property to position itself for one of the three casino licences to be issued by the Jamaican Government.
However, the hotel group opted eventually not to bid for an integrated development order tendered by the Ministry of Finance in December 2013. The orders will qualify their holders to apply for a casino licence.
Kosvogiannis, who is Greek by origin and Jamaican by choice, was on record as objecting to the requirement that integrated resort developers must build 1,000 hotel rooms before they can apply for a casino licence. It is unreasonable, he argued, for investors to commit the required capital outlay without any assurance that the investor would receive the casino licence at the end of the process.
His lobby of the Government to adjust the rule was unsuccessful.
"The frustration with the casino debacle left me with a bitter taste," he told Wednesday Business.
But Kosvogiannis also said the job with Melia offered the opportunity to develop his career in what he described as "the largest resort group in the world" and the 16th-ranked hotel company with currently some 400 hotels in its portfolio. The 225-room Braco resort in Trelawny marks its entry into the Jamaican market.
Both Palladium and Melia are Spanish companies.
"As grateful as I am for the experience Palladium has provided, I still need to be part of a larger and more international family," said the hotel manager.
He left Palladium in June 2014 and started officially with Melia a month later.
The Palladium group has not filled the vacancy for country manager, he said, but has hired Mexican José Morgan as general manager to oversee its for its two hotels - Grand Palladium Jamaica and Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton.
Melia Braco Village is already 90 per cent booked for the opening in June, and is expected to maintain at least 80 per cent occupancy into the fall, according to Kosvogiannis. The property will offer 24-hour room service, five la carte restaurants, all-day buffet, beach bar, beach grill station, piano bar, duty-free shops, and all-day entertainment. It can host up to 550 guests.
Kosvogiannis says half of the rooms will have direct, frontal access to the sea.
He adds that Spanish chain is planning a luxury offering at Braco, which will be equivalent to the former Ritz-Carlton luxury property in Montego Bay.
"The Melia brand is known for emotional architecture; a full experience - not just your food or your room, but just a tantalising experience from the moment you walk in."
Plans for the reopening of Braco have not been swayed, so far, by the court challenge facing owner NIF by contractors who are contesting the pension fund's handling of tenders for the $1 billion repair job.
"It's an ongoing judicial process and I don't want to prejudice the outcome of it, but I can assure you that the public areas and the other procurement processes were in line with government regulations and are in full effect. The injunction was only to clarify some doubts on that initial bid. We have received all assurances that we are proceeding on time and that the hotel will open as scheduled in early June," said Kosvogiannis.
NIF senior director of investments Audrey Deer-Williams said Monday that the parties are due back in court on Friday, January 9, for a hearing of the case.