WITH $5M-$7M FOR REPAIRS, RENOVATIONS
After extensive repairs and renovation that cost between $5 million and $7 million, the Pacific Islands Club Saipan in San Antonio re-opened last Friday, nearly two months after the destruction of Super Typhoon Yutu.
That coincided with the re-opening Friday of the Regal Saipan Megaplex in San Jose. Locally called Hollywood Theaters in San Jose, the only moviehouse in the CNMI suffered extensive damage from Yutu.
As the first group of Korean tourists got down from a van and walked inside the PIC’s lobby Friday afternoon, PIC staff led by general manager Gloria Cavanagh greeted them with a boisterous “Hafa adai” (the island term for “welcome”).
E-Land Group Saipan president Matthew Park and other E-Land managers joined the greeting party.
PIC staff formed two long lines on the side of the lobby, providing a center lane for the incoming first batch of customers.
The tourists were visibly amused as they walked in the center lane and responded with smiles to the applause and cheers that were accompanied by a drum.
Dancers, wearing traditional attire, presented the smiling visitors with leis.
In a later interview, E-Land Group Saipan president Matthew Park said the opening wasn’t only an important sign for PIC, but a symbol of the tourism industry’s revival after Yutu’s massive destruction.
E-Land Group is the parent company of PIC Saipan, Kensington Hotel Saipan, and Coral Ocean Golf Resort.
Park said it took them almost two months to re-open PIC because they had to renovate the lobby, restaurants, some rooms, swimming pools, and other facilities.
Park said the E-Land Group’s construction companies also supported other local companies in the repairs and renovations.
“It’s a start of new promotion, not only to the Korean market, but also to the Japanese,” he said.
The first group of tourists to arrive was aboard Jeju Airlines. The second batch of visitors came that night, Friday, aboard Asiana Airlines.
PIC general manager Cavanagh said they organized the welcome reception because “we wanted them to feel very special because they are very special to us.”
After Yutu struck Saipan and Tinian last Oct. 24 and 25, PIC closed down when their last customer left last Oct. 31. PIC then started renovations a couple of weeks later.
Cavanagh said the re-opening is a product of six weeks of hard work and very good planning to get everything done.
“We wanted them to feel special. We wanted to welcome them into a new PIC, a better PIC, and into a better service,” Cavanagh said.
On the staff side, Cavanagh said it’s been a long turmoil for them and most are still on 30 hours a week.
“They were helping with debris cleanup. They were helping with just everything around the property, but to actually see the guests and wanting to serve the guests, it made them feel really good to actually to do this,” she said.
Cavanagh said the cleanup is actually still going on as there are still some debris.
“After the storm, we called in many construction companies; we grabbed them right away,” she said.
At one time, Cavanagh recalled, there were five different construction companies working all at the same time.
The iconic The Magellan restaurant re-opened to in-house guests yesterday.
Cavanagh said at one time, there were 40 people working on The Magellan alone.
“I think everyone has a cold or something from all the dusts and everything. They worked night and day. I think they finished the overlay at the Lazy River like 1:30am in the morning [Thursday],” she said.
She said Thursday night was a big push to get everything done for the re-opening.
“Believe it or not, as of 5 o’clock yesterday, they were still putting in tiles on this floor [lobby]. It was absolutely amazing. It was coordination and planning by everyone, by the whole team,” Cavanagh said.
Right now, PIC’s 230 rooms are open, but 77 are still down while the hotel is waiting for supplies to come in.
Cavanagh said their first guests—12 families—arrived Friday afternoon, while the second group of about 20 families came Friday night or early Saturday morning.
Cavanagh said their staff’s hours are still cut. “But through this all whole ordeal, since closing…we never cut their benefits.”
Many of the major renovation were at the lobby, The Magellan, the pool bar, pavilion, Seaside Grill, and Happy Hour tent. Cavanagh said that Point Break is not open yet as they need to wait for materials.
As to the observation deck at Point Break, she said it’s going through a permitting process because it will be a new structure.
Cavanagh said when everything is completed, the total cost is going to be somewhere between $5 million and $7 million.
Cavanagh said that many of the resort’s employees are “always converging in the locker room downstairs and…they’ve been working diligently, very hard to get this place open.”
A group of four Korean families said they did not expect the warm welcome and that they really appreciate it.
It was the family’s first trip to Saipan, which they learned about when they visited PIC Guam last year.
Through a PIC staff who served as an interpreter, the family said they’re aware of Yutu’s devastation and that they learned of the hotel’s re-opening through its website.
They said they enjoyed their stay at PIC Guam, particularly the program for children, so they planned this trip to Saipan months ago. The family will stay two nights and three days.