A testament to commitment and statement of confidence


General Manager Robert Coates leads the team at the Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan.(CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Roll out the red carpet because the much-awaited opening of Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan, has finally arrived!

Boasting a multi-million-dollar renovation that elevates the Garapan property to international hotel standards, the Crowne Plaza welcomed its first guests to its 422-room Resort last Oct. 17, 2022, after being closed for renovation for the past two years.

This marks the entry of the Intercontinental Hotels Group PLC—otherwise known in the global hotel industry as IHG Hotels and Resorts—into the region, although the Resort still remains under the ownership of the Asia Pacific Hotels Inc. of Tan Holdings Corp.

This is the third reincarnation for this iconic Saipan landmark, first known as the Dai-Ichi Hotel Saipan Beach from the ’70s until 2002, when it was rebranded as the Fiesta Resort and Spa Saipan. Desiring to bring an international brand to the CNMI and the extensive economic opportunities that come with it, APHI entered into a long-term agreement with the IHG group, with the Resort officially becoming the Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan in May 2020. The Saipan hotel joins two other similar brands in Nice and Budapest as the most recent Hotels IHG opened under the Crowne Plaza brand

IHG made sure that it has the best team on hand to lead the property in its initial foray in the Northern Marianas, with General Manager Robert Coates leading the team. Backed with 27 years’ experience as a multi-unit General Manager at IHG, Coates has successfully led operations across a number of IHG Hotels & Resorts in Australia and New Zealand. These include two Crowne Plaza resorts in New Zealand and the Gagudju Crocodile Holiday Inn.

The Crowne Plaza brand is known to cater to the modern business traveler but Coates says the brand is also flexible in accommodating any type of guest anywhere in the world. “Crowne Plaza fully understands that today’s modern traveler is known for balancing their work/life schedule. While their initial intent may be to travel for work, they also combine some leisure activities during their downtime.”

The leadership team at the Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

And this is where Crowne Plaza comes in. “We are positioned as an upmarket brand as well as a versatile one that appeals to both the corporate traveler and those travelling for leisure.”

The Crowne Plaza brand can be found everywhere the modern traveler wants to be productive, energized, restored, and inspired, with more than 400 locations in city, airport, resort and suburban destinations. “You can find Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts in central business districts, resort locations as well as in regional areas and a little bit more in remote areas.”

Coates is excited for both the hotel’s visitors and what IHG and its global network of premium hotel brands can contribute to the growth of the Northern Marianas’ tourism industry.

“We are going to tap into our network of hotels globally to market the Northern Marianas as an ideal destination to those who seek leisure vacations.” Coates said.

Through IHG’s One Rewards program, Crowne Plaza will also be able to bring in meetings and convention groups in need of spaces that will stimulate creativity and productivity as well as provide efficient customer service. “There is a need among groups, companies, and government agencies to re-energize and regroup so there are opportunities in the CNMI for the resort to host these small meetings and gatherings. These groups are looking for big spaces to create and do interesting things, different things, and create connections. We can do a lot of things for different markets,” said Coates.

In addition, Crowne Plaza will also be drawing on its network’s family and honeymoon markets—rejuvenating interest in these two markets that were the CNMI’s most popular clientele prior to the pandemic as well as expanding interest in the Northern Marianas to visitors from other regions.

Much hope is pinned on the Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan to further help stimulate the island’s tourism industry, which has suffered heavily the past five years from the back-to-back effects of super typhoons and the pandemic. In addition the devaluation of the Japanese and Korean currencies and travel uncertainties in the Japanese family market had also had adverse effects on the flow of visitors to the islands.

The entire Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan team (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Despite these, Coates is optimistic that the CNMI will be able to rebound from these challenges. “We are seeing countries ease travel restrictions for inbound and outbound travelers. Some of them are even waiving testing requirements. They are confident enough that, with vaccination programs and safety protocols in place, international travel can again happen. Economies need borders to open for tourists to come in. We depend on travel to resume so we can steer the CNMI’s economy to a more stable course.”

But Coates says Crowne Plaza and any other present and future hotel and resort developments in the Northern Marianas for that matter can only do so much. Ultimately, it takes the effort of all sectors of the community to reap the rewards of a burgeoning tourism industry. “Crowne Plaza works in conjunction with different partners. We will use our system and network over 6,000 hotels around the world to promote the Northern Marianas. But to grow a destination, you have to work with your partners—the local governments and tourism bodies, in this case the Marianas Visitors Authority, which we work very closely with. And you also have to build the demand for the destination.”

Coates said tourists visit a place that offer unique experiences and what makes the Northern Marianas special is the warm hospitality of its people and the “Hafa Adai” spirit of the local community.

But all things considered, Coates said the most significant result that comes out of this multi-million-dollar investment is the investor confidence that Tan Holdings has created for the economy of Guam and the Northern Marianas.

“Everyone—both local investors and businesses and, most importantly, the local community benefits from the presence of an international brand. From a small dive shop or a tour operator or a day trekking company, doing business with an international brand gives them credibility. With high tourist demand for a destination also comes the equivalent demand for more airline services to the islands. The presence of an international brand gives a destination a stamp of authenticity and of maturity to some degree.” Coates said.

Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan’s opening, which comes just as a global pandemic is easing, is also a fitting occasion for Tan Holdings itself, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year of doing business in the Northern Marianas and the Western Pacific region.

“The reopening of Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan and soon, on Guam is a big statement of confidence that Tan Holdings is making. It shows the company’s unwavering commitment to the islands, which it calls home. Even with the pandemic’s looming presence, we moved ahead with this development and now we are reopening this property just in time for the resumption of international travel,” he said.

Coates invites the community to check out the hotel and the many changes they’ve made to it. “The local community is very much a part of the fabric of Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan. Inasmuch as they embraced and supported Fiesta Resort, we also ask the same as this property is so much more about them and Tan Holdings, which has made an enormous investment on our islands’ economy. As owners of the hotel, they have trusted IHG to use its wide network and database to broaden the CNMI’s reach as an international destination to a wider tourist market. Just as they have been accustomed to in the past, Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan remains the place where they can host their wedding, anniversaries, family gatherings and important occasions.”

TERI M. FLORES, Correspondent
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