Hard Rock International is setting its sights on expansion in the Caribbean and Central America, and has announced development plans for a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino property in Aruba.
Michael Shindler, executive vice president for Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos, told Lodging that plans for the beachfront, 310-room property are underway although financing is still pending and contracts are not yet finalized.
The brand, along with Southwest Horeca Development company, was chosen through a government-run Request for Proposal (RFP) to take over the location occupied by the former Bushiri Hotel.
Shindler, who has plenty of experience in Aruba, believes this new-build property compliments the company's overall expansion plans for the region.
"This property fits perfectly with what we've done in the Caribbean," he told Lodging. "If you look at the Caribbean and Central America as a greater geographic region, by October of 2013, we'll have three properties representing about 2,400 rooms in Mexico, 1,500 rooms in Panama, and some 300 rooms in Aruba well under way."
Through connections Shindler made in Aruba over 20 years ago when working with Hyatt, Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos connected with development principal Fito Croes and Southwest Horeca. For Shindler, the partnership was a natural choice.
"This family-run company has been involved in the island's government and in the development structure of Aruba for some time," he says. "We knew instinctively that working with Fito as a principal of the development group was something that brought with it a reputation in Aruba for quality and the best interests of the island."
Shindler cites the location of the proposed project as a big drawing point for the brand's entry into Aruba. The site is convenient to both the harbor and Aruba's capital city of Oranjestad.
"Replacing a dilapidated, unfortunately obsolete building with new, sustainable, customized, and modern design can only be an enhancement to the location," says Shindler. "We will also have the benefit of being the newest beachfront resort closest to the quaint and beautiful downtown."
Although design plans for the hotel are still in the early stages, Shindler says that the property will incorporate eco-friendly materials that blend into the natural landscape.
"We're dealing with a beach destination—the ocean, the sun, the trees—where everything is natural," he says. "To come in and use as much green material and green design capabilities is not only good for the property itself, but it supports one of Hard Rock's mottos, which is 'Save the Planet.'"
Although there is no solid timeline as to when this project may break ground or open to the public, Shindler believes that the property will be a draw for both luxury and business travelers. When complete, the hotel will include multiple restaurants, a casino, and entertainment options that compliment Hard Rock's reputation.
"To go to a beautiful, appealing, exotic island in the Dutch Caribbean, and stay at a Hard Rock Hotel with a casino as an amenity, is something that we think is going to resonate," he says. "Aruba is the perfect southern piece to our overall strategy in that part of the world."