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New president elected for the Caribbean Hotel Association

Simon Suarez, executive vice president of Coral Hotels & Resorts in the Dominican Republic, assumed the presidency of the…

Simon Suarez, executive vice president of Coral Hotels & Resorts in the Dominican Republic, assumed the presidency of the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA<.>) during the closing of the Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference (CHIC 2002), which was held June 16-19, at the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Country Club, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

In his first comments as CHA President, Suarez explained that the driving forces of his presidency will be diversity, unity, and ingenuity. One of the key issues of his platform is developing a private sector-led initiative to establish a Capital Fund for financing the Caribbean Hospitality Industry, one of the conclusions of the recent Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (CHTIC) in Puerto Rico. In addition, Suarez seeks to establish meaningful and relevant partnerships with the cruise industry, to bring them into partnership in regional marketing and in environmental stewardship; the timeshare industry, in recognition of it as a valid source of investment and an alternative hospitality product; and the chain hotels, to harness their resources to improve the Caribbean hospitality product. Suarez will also give continuity to a number of important initiatives piloted by outgoing president Ralph Taylor, such as the launching of the regional marketing campaign and the establishment of stable funding mechanisms for the development of the regional tourism strategic plan.

Within the CHA structure, Suarez will work towards the unification of the CHA family as the leading private hospitality organization of the region. Simon Suarez is Vice President of Coral Hotels and Resorts, S. A., a hotel management and development company with properties in various parts of the Dominican Republic. Until recently, he was President of Union Hotelera Dominicana, S. A., a hotel investment corporation with interests in the vacation ownership business that owns the Villas Doradas Beach Resort in Playa Dorada, Puerto Plata. Since 1988 and until 1997, Mr. Suarez was President of Occidental Hotels’ local operating company, Occidental Hoteles Dominicana, S. A. Under his tenure, Occidental managed twelve hotel properties in the Dominican Republic with more than 2,500 rooms.

Prior to his career as an hotelier, Mr. Suarez was in the banking business for more than ten years with Banco de Desarrollo FINADE, an investment and development bank in the Dominican Republic. A significant portion of the bank’s portfolio was placed in the hotel and tourism sector and Mr. Suarez was involved in arranging several pioneering financing packages for hotels in the Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata areas. Mr. Suarez/s career began in 1974 at the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic with the Department for Tourism Infrastructure Development. There he was liaison officer with the World Bank for the financing of the landmark Puerto Plata Tourism Project; which gave the initial push to the current development of Dominican tourism. Mr. Suarez serves as President of the Dominican Tourism Promotion Council, a not for profit organization that channels privately generated funds into tourism promotion. He is also vice-president of the National Hotel and Restaurants Association of the Dominican Republic.

In addition to Simon Suarez, the new slate of officers for the 2002-2004 term includes:

Berthia Parle, Bay Gardens Hotel, St. Lucia – 1st Vice President. This 27-year hospitality industry veteran was born and educated in St. Lucia and began her career at the Government Treasury where she received a CIDA Scholarship to pursue a diploma in Middle Management/Hospitality Studies. Spending time in the restaurant business, Parle has owned and managed three top dining establishments on St. Lucia for 10 years. Parle has worked in Bermuda, St. Lucia and Germany (with the Steigenberger Chain). While living in Bermuda, Parle lectured at the Training Hotel at Stonington Beach. She is St. Lucia’s foremost and most active small hotelier and has been named the island’s Hotelier of the Year and Crystal Award winner. Beyond her duties at Bay Gardens, Parle is a founding member of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival Planning Committee, president of the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, and a member of several tourism advisory committees.

Peter Odle, Mango Bay Resorts, Barbados and Antigua – 2nd Vice President. Odle is a tourism veteran with over twenty years of industry experience, plays a key role in the development and sustainability of the small hotel throughout the entire region, and successfully runs four properties in the Caribbean. In 1977, Odle began his tourism career by building 14 apartments known as Regent Apartments on Barbados. In the same year, he entered a lease agreement on the Island Inn Hotel and Palm Beach Hotel in Barbados. In 1978, he established Island Caterers, one of the biggest catering businesses still in existence on Barbados. In 1981, Mr. Odle became managing director and director of operations for all of his businesses. Between 1993 and 1994, he reconstructed Palm Beach Hotel into the all-inclusive Mango Bay Resort, Barbados. Soon after, Mr. Odle purchased the Dian Bay Hotel in Antigua and transformed it into the next Mango Bay Resort, which opened in August 1997. Completing Mr. Odle’s portfolio of properties is the small 24-room property on Barbados’ west coast known as Sunswept, Holetown, and the Regent Apartments located in Sunset Crest Resort. In 2000, he was named CHA’s Caribbean Hotelier of the Year.

Gabriel Escalante, Avalon Resorts, Cancun, Mexico – 3rd Vice President. Gabriel Escalante’s experience in the hospitality industry spans two decades in senior management positions in renowned hotel brands such as Presidente Hotels and Holiday Inn throughout Mexico. His experience also includes the positions of Regional Vice President of Sales for the Coventry Group and President of the Trust Fund for Tourism Promotion in Cancun. He currently owns the Holiday Inn Express Cancun, as well as Escalante & Partners, a Tourism Consultancy Firm based in Cancun. A CHA director for 14 years, Escalante, as president of the Cancun Hotel Association, was responsible for the entrance of the Mexican Caribbean in the CHA Federation. He has also been highly involved in the Steering Committee of various CHA events, such as CHIC and Marketplace, held in Quintana Roo. At the national level, Escalante is currently a Board Member of the Cancun Hotel Association and has served as President of the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau, among many other activities related to tourism and hospitality. He has a degree in Hotel & Tourism Management and has pursued further training in Mexico, the United States, Canada and Europe.

Rob Sherman>, Curtain Bluff, Antigua – 4th Vice President. Sherman began his career in the hotel industry managing Glacier Bay Lodge in Alaska for a summer. Afterward, he moved to the Caribbean region, where he first served as resident manager of Curtain Bluff Hotel in Antigua. He later served as general manager of Cotton Bay Club in Eleuthera, The Bahamas, for two years, after which he returned to Antigua as managing director of Mill Reef Club for six years. In 1987, he returned to Curtain Bluff in his current position as managing director. Sherman is a trustee of CHA’s Caribbean Hospitality Training Institute (CHTI) and a director for Anguilla on the CHA board of directors. He is also designated by the American Hotel & Motel Association as a Certified Hotel Administrator. Sherman was chairman of Antigua Sailing Week and of the Antigua Hotel Association. Reflective of his dedication to tourism in the region, he is in charge of the Hello Tourist! hospitality career awareness program in Antigua. In 2001, he was named CHA’s Caribbean Hotelier of the Year.

Richard Doumeng, Bolongo Bay Beach & Tennis Club, St. Thomas, USVI – 5th Vice President. Bolongo is a family owned and operated resort. After serving in other capacities within the Doumeng family’s previously-owned resorts, Richard became general manager of the property after his father, Dick, turned over the reigns to him. Richard began his career at Bolongo as a teenager holding positions as a beach attendant and in the food and beverage department, guest services, housekeeping, and the front office. Up until Dec. 2001, Richard was the president of the St. Thomas/St. John Hotel Association for four years, making him the first second-generation hotel president in St. Thomas. Over the years, Richard has managed the St. Thomas Diving Club at Villa Olga, the first resort on St. Thomas designed exclusively for scuba divers, as well Catamaran Cruises, a day-charter boat company. Richard’s other experience has included working for Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager; front office manager at the Ritz Carlton in New York; and operations manager for McNabb & Associates, handling incentive travel and special events.

Jag Mehta, Superclubs, Jamaica – Treasurer. A native of India, Mehta’s 30+-year career in tourism has included senior management positions with renowned hotel companies such as Intercontinental, Hilton International, Williams Hospitality, Normandie Hotels, and SuperClubs, in some of the Caribbean’s major tourism destinations — Curacao, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and The Bahamas — as well as Hawaii and the continental United States. Mehta has served on the CHA board of directors as either an officer or director since 1977 and has held the positions of vice president and treasurer as well. In addition, he was president of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, Vice President of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourism Association, and director of the Bahamas Hotel Association. In 1982, Mehta received Hotelier of the Year honors from CHA.

Ralph Taylor, Almond Resorts, Barbados – Chairman. The immediate past president of CHA (2000-2004), Ralph Taylor is credited with introducing the all inclusive resort concept to Barbados. He established himself first in the area of hospitality accounting and finance and later as a professional hotelier. His more than 25 years experience in hospitality includes the Asta Hotel, Welcome Inn, Rockley Beach Resort, England’s Imperial Torquay, the Hyde Park Hotel and Almond Beach Resorts. Taylor was the first divisional chairman of tourism for the Barbados Shipping & Trading Company, the sixth largest conglomerate in the Caribbean, and sits as a director on the company’s parent board. He is a former president of the Barbados Hotel Association, former chairman of the Tourism Development Corporation, and is currently chairman of the Advisory Council of the Minister of Tourism in Barbados. As CHA President, he was responsible for the strategic refocusing of the organization over the past two years. As a result, CHA has made significant strides in areas such as advocacy, marketing and tourism awareness.

As CHA’s new president, Simon Suarez will appoint five regional vice presidents to represent CHA’s diverse membership. These vice presidential positions were created in 1998 to take into account the need to balance the executive committee to encompass the interests and geographical needs of the region.

Photo: Simon Suarez, CHA President, delivered his inaugural address at the closing of CHIC 2002.

Theodore Koumelis
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