Travel

A Stone’s Throw from the Old Caribbean

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - August 1, 2011

At the far end of New Providence in the Bahamas sits an homage to the old Caribbean — the 10-room boutique hotel called A Stone’s Throw Away. Run by German native Chris Illing, the hotel is one of a small group of boutique properties in Nassau. Illing, who also owns the Greenwood Beach Resort on Cat Island, opened A Stone’s Throw Away in 2004. He talked to Caribbean Journal about attracting European visitors, the Nassau boutique hotel market, and how Bahamian tourism has changed during the downturn.

How did you end up in the Bahamas?

We first came here 20 years ago. We have another beach location in Cat Island, which is southeast of here. So we developed that property with about 25 rooms, a restaurant, a pool and a dive shop in the early 1990s. I had been working as a dive instructor back in Australia, and we finally decided to buy in the Bahamas. I said I’ll give it a try to run and build it up. And I got stuck on the islands!

What are the differences in running properties in the out islands compared to Nassau proper?

If you run an out island resort, the out islands are less populated than Nassau, which means you are more hands-on when it comes to daily activities – sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, sightseeing. You have to organise everything for your guests, so it starts from breakfast and goes straight through the day.

How is Stone’s Throw unique in Nassau?

Nassau itself is not known for its small, boutique places. It’s more known for the Atlantis, as well as the Wyndham and the Sheraton, the bigger resorts. There are perhaps three or four boutique hotel places on the island — that attract the same kind of clientele. We have 10 rooms, and there’s another resort down the stretch, Compass Point, with 16 rooms, and Graycliff [downtown] which has about 20-something rooms. So if you have 60 rooms in this little boutique market, that’s about it. For an island with around 10,000 hotel rooms, it’s not that much.

How has Bahamian tourism changed since the downturn?

The recession has definitely impacted [the Bahamas], since we are mostly oriented towards the Florida market, the US market. Our property itself, because we market within Europe, in our percentage of international travelers it’s a little higher than the average. Since the downturn, the normal American holiday became more price-conscious. We were lucky enough to be in the price segment where people were able to afford us, so we fared all right. But we definitely felt the global impact.

Are there any differences in the way the Bahamas markets itself?

Unfortunately, in my eyes at least, they’re concentrated too heavily towards the US market. Traveling as a European-based traveler, I’ve been to Asia, to North Africa, to Southern Europe, and, at the end of the day, the Bahamas, here you can’t beat the weather, you can’t beat the beaches, you cannot beat the water — there’s nowhere comparable. You have to go to the Maldives, or the Pacific to find that. Nassau itself is a good little hub for getting to the real Bahamas, as we call them, the out islands surrounding Nassau. For European travelers, it’s easy to get here. You can fly to Miami from every major city in Europe. And then it’s a 30 minute flight to Nassau

What’s different about the out island experience?

There, you travel back in time 30 years. People still leave their hotel rooms open, their keys in the car, the people smile. There’s no crime, because everybody knows each other. Cat Island, for example, which is twice the land mass of Nassau, has only 1500 people. I think that is unique to find.

Do you have plans for any future properties?

We had the opportunity, as well as the luxury that we had good occupancy the last two to three years. We’re trying to get the terraced land in front of us, the sloping downhill, and we’re looking to put up five or six cabana-style bungalows that we would tie into the property. But at the moment, it’s just in negotiations with the owner.

 

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