After decades building its reputation on boutique and eco-friendly resorts, Belize now has its first global brand-named resort in development, here on Ambergris Caye: Hilton.
Curio began in 2014 as an attempt by a major corporation to develop a more intimate side that would appeal to “independent-minded travelers’ needs for local discovery and authentic experiences,” according to a Hilton press release. The Curio Collection consists of 25 high-end luxury resorts and hotels around the world, mostly in the U.S. as well as Jamaica, Spain Argentina and Germany. Unlike traditional brand-name resorts which encourage guests to remain (and spend) within their walls while enjoying an approximation of local culture, the Curios Collection is for guests who want to step out and enjoy the real world.
If traditional resorts are akin to gated communities with a tightly controlled experience, the Curio Collection promises more opportunity for guests to jump into the real world. “The Resort at Mahogany Bay Village will be a borderless community that encourages travelers to get out and experience all that Belize has to offer,” explains Beth Clifford, president, Mahogany Bay Management, Ltd.
And, yes, that is exactly what existing Belize lodges, boutiques and resorts have been encouraging for decades.
If you are still trying to come up with a comparison, think of mass-appeal brewers like MillerCoors and Budweiser and their attempts to enter the microbrew market by buying up existing craft breweries. Sort of like that.
Mahogany Bay, which Hilton describes as “rustic chic” is still very much a work in progress. Situated south of San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye, the dominant architecture is wood construction, with an emphasis on natural materials and Belizean design. While there are big plans and much under construction, Mahogany’s village at this point consists of an excellent coffee shop (Rum and Bean), a taco shop and a large commercial space that may hold up to four retail shops. There is also a 22,000 square foot convention and meeting space, the Great House, which will make its debut this weekend at an event hosted by the wife of the prime minister, Kim Simplis Barrow.
Scores of villas have been constructed along canals but none is apparently occupied.
The property recently hosted a fund-raising concert by present and former members of the recently inducted Hall of Fame group Steve Miller Band.
The press release describes the resort like this: “The rustic-chic resort destination is located in San Pedro, Belize on Ambergris Caye, about 15 miles from the mainland and 10 minutes from the San Pedro Airport. With 205 cottage and villa-style rooms, the resort sits on a 60-acre property featuring private residences, bay and beach clubs, a spa, meeting space and ‘The Village,’ a vibrant public space.”
Of course the company has there are high-hopes for its Village, which will “complement the downtown San Pedro area with a General Store, craft and farmer’s market, scuba and fishing operators, concierge and tour coordinator, hair/nail salon and much more. Guests will be able to try organic fresh vegetables harvested daily from Ambergreens, Belize’s first aquaponics farming venture, fantastic coffee at Rum and Bean, lunch at Taco Shack and local fare at the all-day restaurant, among many other food and beverage outlets.”
“With its luxury accommodations, beautiful location, environmentally-sustainable design and integration with the local community, we can’t wait to welcome guests to The Resort at Mahogany Bay Village,” says Dianna Vaughan, senior vice president and global head, Curio – A Collection by Hilton and DoubleTree by Hilton.
And Mahogany Bay stands to gain a lot from this venture.
“As part of the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, The Resort at Mahogany Bay Village, Curio Collection by Hilton will participate in Hilton HHonors®, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton Worldwide’s 13 distinct hotel brands. Hilton HHonors Members always get an exclusive member rate, along with HHonors Points, free standard Wi-Fi, digital check-in and no booking fees only when they book directly through Hilton,” according to a press statement.
The Resort at Mahogany Bay will of course participate Hilton HHonors®, the guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 13 hotel brands, offering lower rates, free WiFi, digital booking among other amenities.
Hilton is the first global hospitality corporation to get a foothold in Belize but not likely the last. A massive resort at the southern tip of this island is reportedly being built by a major chain and several properties to the far north are said to be locked up by big resort chains.