GRAND CAYMAN'S COMEBACK

Last September's Hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, including the island of Grand Cayman. Months later, only 39 percent — about 1,200 hotel rooms — of the total room inventory of more than 3,700 are back on line.

The good news is that new development is very strong. The Ritz-Carlton is scheduled to open in October; the Grand Cayman Marriott next June 1, following a $15-million renovation, as are the Comfort Suites and Wyndham Sunshine Suites properties.

The $400-million Ritz-Carlton will feature 365 rooms and suites and 93 private residences with the top residential unit priced at $40 million. Other resort attractions include two restaurants from celeb chef Eric Ripert of New York's Le Bernardin, a spa created by La Prairie of Switzerland and a golf course designed by Greg Norman.

Originally scheduled to open last December, the resort reportedly suffered no structural damage during the hurricane but pushed back its opening to fine-tune elements and contribute to local recovery efforts.

Ritz-Carlton Owner/Developer Michael Ryan has nothing but praise for the island community and its spirit and efforts to rebuild and put Grand Cayman back on the tourism map. “It's a wealthy, progressive island so people were very entrepreneurial about moving forward.”

As for resort development in the Caribbean, “the challenge on the islands is you don't have the depth of resources and infrastructure to draw on,” says Ryan. “Everything has to be imported so the level of coordination is more demanding than working in the states and development costs are significantly higher.

“On the positive side, the region has really advanced in the past 10 years. The skill level and knowledge have greatly expanded so with enough tenacity you can produce at a world-class level.”

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