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Friday, April 18, 2014

It’s either Sheraton or Hilton
E Land lays out renovation plans, timeline

The former The Palms Resort in San Roque will reopen under global hotel brand Sheraton or Hilton, E Land’s Micronesia Resort Inc. said yesterday as it laid out renovation plans for the 313-room hotel it acquired in 2011. Whether it’s Hilton or Sheraton, the CNMI is on its way to having another global hotel brand besides Hyatt Regency Saipan.

Tae Ho Kim, chief operating officer of E Land’s MRI, said they are in the final stage of discussion with Sheraton and Hilton, and will decide which one to select on March 7.

He said they will announce that decision to the public on March 14.

If the one-year $20 million to $30 million renovation goes smoothly as planned, the hotel will reopen in the summer of 2015, Kim said at a news briefing at the hotel’s chapel.

“There are a lot of global brands in Guam but only one on Saipan. If we have another brand in the CNMI, it will help bring in more tourists,” said Kim, through MRI senior hotel development manager and Coral Ocean Point operation manager Dennis Seo, who served as the English interpreter.

Kim said that having more brand names that are recognized in most parts of the world would help boost the CNMI’s image as a tourist destination.

Like other major hotels in the CNMI, their target markets are tourists from Japan, Korea, China, and Russia.

The groundbreaking for the renovation is set for around July 31 this year.

Once the multi-million renovation is done, the hotel will look like a cruise ship, which it nearly resembles as it is now. MRI’s Seo presented the prospective design for the hotel.

Kim said the hotel renovation will take about a year to complete.

He said securing a stamped or certified renovation plan and necessary permits for the renovation alone will take over five months or 169 days.

Optimism

Acting governor Jude U. Hofschneider, in a later interview, said E Land’s decision to reopen the former Palms Resort under a global brand is certainly “welcome news” at a time when the CNMI needs more hotel rooms to meet an improving tourism arrival rate.

“We encourage them to continue working toward their goal…We understand the challenges and the government will work with them,” Hofschneider said in an interview at the swearing-in of the newest member of the Commonwealth Zoning Board yesterday afternoon.

Kim said E Land’s MRI wants the public to understand that since they acquired the former Palms Resort in August 2011, they have been working on renovation plans but has not been making specific announcements until everything is ready to get off the ground. The former Palms Resort sits on private land.

Sen. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) said yesterday he looks forward to E Land’s implementation of its plans. He reiterated his appreciation for E Land for its willingness to become a partner in the CNMI’s economic recovery.

Manglona and Sen. Pete Reyes (Ind-Saipan), in an earlier letter to the Department of Public Lands, have expressed concerns about E Land’s track record in the CNMI where it acquired Pacific Islands Club in San Antonio, Coral Ocean Point in the southern part of Saipan, and the former Palms Resort.

While PIC has been seeing a robust performance, the renovation of COP is still ongoing while the former Palms Resort has yet to be renovated almost three years later.

Moreover, E Land also responded to DPL’s request for proposals for the lease of 40,827 square meters of public lands in San Antonio for the development of a new hotel with at least 200 rooms.

DPL has yet to decide between E Land’s MRI and Hong Kong-based Honest Profit on the land lease.

300 jobs

Kim said over 300 new jobs will be created with the hotel’s reopening under a global brand.

Although the former Palms Resort closed its doors, E Land has continued to employ a team of personnel to maintain the hotel and all its facilities. Once renovation is done, the hotel would need a total of 350 employees.

The pace of hiring will be based on the phased-in renovation, which also includes three zones. Zone one 1 is the family park, zone 2 is sports facilities, and zone 3 is honeymoon-themed area. Besides renovation to the hotel rooms, the exterior and the interiors, a luxury gallery and other amenities will also be spruced up.

At yesterday’s news briefing, Seo gave the crowd an overview of E Land’s worldwide presence. E Land is a South Korea-based fashion, retail and property giant with some $10 billion revenue in 2012 and expects to grow that to $100 billion by 2020 through its global presence.

“E Land has strong presence in both Korea and China with over 20 resorts and hotels, as well as over 10,000 retail stores in both countries. Our target tourists for the CNMI are Japan, Korea, China and Russian markets,” E Land’s Kim said in a separate statement. E Land also has presence in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Kim added that E Land is making a long-term commitment to do business in the CNMI “and would like to be a good corporate citizen through community development.”

“We highly appreciate all the support from our government and looking forward to be part of this great community in the years and decades to come,” Kim added.

Some curious businesses also attended E Land’s news briefing about their renovation plans, including Arctic Air’s Paul Zak, Bridge Capital, and G4S representatives. Zak said he wanted to find out E Land’s target market for the hotel, and see whether Arctic Air could have an opportunity to partner with them in bringing in hotel guests to Tinian, Rota, or the Northern Islands for tours during their stay in the CNMI.

Seo also introduced other E Land and MRI officials and personnel, including human resources manager Bertha Leon Guerrero, their planning and construction manager, another senior hotel development manager, and the maintenance team for the former Palms Resort.

The former Palms Resort used to be Hotel Nikko Saipan, with Japan Airlines as majority shareholder from the time the hotel was built in 1984. The hotel opened in 1988.

In February 2008, UMDA bought JAL stocks in Hotel Nikko Saipan. Three years later, E Land Park Ltd. bought UMDA stocks. E Land’s Micronesia Resort Inc. is overseeing E Land’s acquisitions in the CNMI including the former Palms Resort, Coral Ocean Point, and Pacific Islands Club.

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