Resort Report

Branding Excellence: Grace Bay Club expansion

gbc-hotelBy Kathy Borsuk

As Providenciales’ first small luxury hotel, Grace Bay Club turned heads and earned accolades from the moment its hand-carved wooden doors swung open in 1992. An international melange of guests, including many high-profile celebrities, adored the property’s prime Grace Bay Beach location, eclectically furnished suites, superior service and the privacy that a lushly landscaped, 21 suite hotel can promise. Grace Bay Club stood apart as an intimate, romantic, five-star enclave on an island that had more than a touch of frontier to it.

In the dozen years since, Providenciales has changed dramatically. The once-wild beach has been tamed by upscale condominium resort developments, the formerly rugged road is now a streetlight-lit, four-lane highway and a bevy of supermarkets, restaurants, bars and boutiques make eating, drinking and shopping a pleasure, rather than a chore.

The Hotel at Grace Bay Club

That said, it would be easy for Grace Bay Club to rest on its laurels. Besides continuing to attract a fiercely loyal clientele, it was ranked #12 in Travel & Leisure magazine’s 2004 “World’s Best Awards” and termed “exceptional” in the 2004 Zagat Guide to Top International Hotels & Resorts.

But “complacent” has never been a word in Mark Durliat’s vocabulary. When Mark and partners John Fair and Jerry Landeck purchased the property in 2002 from Provo pioneer Klaus Kreis, they immediately embarked on an extensive renovation/refurbishment program with the intention of significantly improving guests’ experience and creating a better working environment for their loyal staff. They also unveiled plans for The Villas at Grace Bay Club, a 38-unit ultra-luxury condominium project, just to the west of the existing hotel.

These days, improvements to The Hotel at Grace Bay Club continue; The Villas at Grace Bay Club are nearly sold out with the first two buildings opening in July, 2005 and the second two in September; and a new residential property, The Estate, has made a splashy debut. (See below.) On-site owner Mark Durliat explains, “This successful boutique hotel is being redeveloped into a $100 million five star resort and spa. With each new project on Grace Bay Beach raising the bar in terms of buildings, amenities and service, we intend to continue to be pacesetters in the high-end luxury resort market.”

A key step in staying at the forefront was the recent appointment of Nikheel Advani as General Manager. Nikheel brings 15 years of experience in the international luxury hospitality industry, most recently from a 2 1/2 year assignment as Hotel Manager at the iconic Raffles Singapore, ranked among the world’s top hotels. Prior to that, Nikheel worked for seven years with the renowned Ritz Carlton Hotel group, with locations across North America and in Singapore, Japan and Malaysia. Mark is thrilled to attract talent of this caliber, recognizing that as a destination, the Turks & Caicos are earning international recognition within the industry.

Energetic and enthusiastic, Nikheel has definite ideas about the philosophy of service. “Genuine care is part of the cutting edge credo that we are working to develop in each of our 70 staff members. It’s more than simply providing an expensive bottle of champagne or greeting guests by name . . . it’s letting each guest know that their unique needs are being acknowledged.” He goes on to explain how a Grace Bay Club housekeeper recently heard a guest commenting that her pillow was too BIG, and that she preferred a smaller one like she had at home. After checking the hotel’s inventory and finding no suitable pillows, the housekeeper went home and made a pillow that was just the right size. “That’s the difference we’re trying to create.”

Mark adds that the resort is also committed to developing great hoteliers among Turks & Caicos Islanders. Each year, the hotel selects three staff members to participate in hospitality training courses at Cornell University in New York. In the future, there will be a Grace Bay Club Hotel School, where employees can be trained on an ongoing basis.

One of Nikheel’s many tasks is to develop a personalized marketing program focused on letting “everyone” know about the “new” Grace Bay Club. Of course it helps that he has a long-standing relationship with top travel agents and many of the most prestigious world travelers. Nikheel eagerly anticipates the forthcoming opening of The Villas at Grace Bay Club suites. “With 38 new units, we can finally stop telling people that we’re sold out! What is really great is that The Villas are positioned as a family-friendly property. Whereas we’ll continue to market The Hotel at Grace Bay Club as a romantic couples hideaway, The Villas will have a broader family appeal with organized watersports, hiking, cycling and ecotourism activities, as well as its own beach.”

The distinction between The Hotel and The Villas reflects Grace Bay Club’s new branded identity, in which each component of the resort (including The Estate) wears a separate personality, while sharing a common bond of award-winning hospitality and unsurpassed service. The sheer size of the property (now 11 acres, with 1,100 ft. of beach frontage) makes it easy to create zones of privacy for a wider variety of guests.

The resort’s eateries reflect this idea. Anacaona, the acclaimed gourmet restaurant, will continue to cater to adults with additional oceanfront private dining enclaves. The Lounge open-air cocktail bar attracts the up and coming professional set with its sophisticated blend of international music, vintage rums and trendy martinis. More casual options are planned for The Villas, including a swim-up bar and grill.

gbc-poolPool at Grace Bay Club

Complementing The Hotel’s secluded pool nestled amongst tropical landscaping will be a second oceanfront pool for The Villas. This area will also embrace a European spa and state of the art fitness center along with the existing watersports, tennis and spa facilities.

At press time, Mark, Nikheel and the rest of the Grace Bay Club staff were looking forward to an exciting winter season and new year. Nikheel summed up their enthusiasm, “Here we have the resources and ability to create world-class excellence. We can make the Grace Bay Club the next ‘best place.'”

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When Mark Durliat and partner John Fair had the chance to purchase five acres of prime land on Grace Bay Beach — the site just to the east of the existing hotel — they knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With the acquisition, the Grace Bay Club’s total property size increased to 11 acres, with an astounding 1,100 ft. of beach frontage. This opened the doors to a new option that would continue in the brand’s tradition of high quality and low density, while elevating the product to the next level in the international arena.

“It’s no secret that many people dream of owning a luxury house on world-renowned Grace Bay Beach,” Mark says. “Unfortunately, this is just no longer possible. So in response we have created The Estate at Grace Bay Club, which is the finest alternative to a private home on the beach. We’re offering 22 expansive penthouse-type residences of the highest caliber. At 4,300 sq. ft., each four bedroom/four bathroom condominium residence will enjoy 70 feet of ocean frontage, similar to that of a typical house lot.” (In keeping with Grace Bay Club’s philosophy of intimacy and exclusivity, the site will be limited to 22 residences, although it could accommodate more than 75.)

With prices starting at $2,500,000, The Estate promises to provide its owners “with the finest residential experience ever to be constructed on Grace Bay Beach.” Each residence will be custom designed to its purchaser’s taste, with 11 to 12 foot ceilings and vast patios and terraces to welcome light, space and the beachfront vista into each home.

With the goal of borrowing some magic from the existing hotel, architects Siskind & Carlson, designers of the original Grace Bay Club, will create its elegant architecture. Interior designers RTKL of Miami and its principal Howard Snoweiss, one of the most accomplished designers in the US, have been appointed as well. Each residence will enjoy outdoor Jacuzzi tubs, imported Jerusalem stone and Brazilian hardwood floors, and top quality kitchen cabinetry and appliances.

While The Estate’s grounds will be accessible only to owners and their guests, its residents will be able to partake of Grace Bay Club’s array of resort services — including housekeeping, butlers, room service and spa — at will. Mark explains, “The Estate is definitely an exclusive residential project, but it will benefit from the best services and management Grace Bay Club can offer . . . and more. This gives owners the best of both worlds.” For more information, visit

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South Caicos was once a major exporter of salt harvested from its extensive salinas. Award-winning Master and Craftsman Photographer James Roy of Paradise Photography ( created this vertical composition by assembling a series of six images captured by a high-definition drone which was a half a mile away from his position.

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