Tuesday, 4 November 2008

At The Helm Of Port Louis: Peter de Savary Interview

In a chance interview with Peter de Savary, the British entrepreneur and property developer explains why Grenada ticks all his boxes.

Sitting on the deck of his yacht Peter de Savary holds court around a table with six other men, reluctant to recess the meeting. In the crescendo of his closing speech his hands gesticulate animatedly, the ubiquitous fat cigar wedged between his fingers waving like a conductor’s baton.

He's casually dressed in shorts and a shirt which suits the hot sun that is cooking us journalists as we await his invitation to join him aboard. But then we are here at Port Louis, Peter de Savary's latest venture on the Caribbean island of Grenada, unannounced.

De Savary is investing $500 million with full support of the Grenadian Government, to create what he describes as 'a Mecca for the aficionado.'

Port Louis will be an eco-marina designed with parking for fifty 40-100 foot yachts and a marina village of luxury high-end shops from well-known London brands, to create a St Tropez feel of the 1950's. Duty free shopping has already been agreed, as has the build of a five star Ritz Cartlon Hotel.

"I'm a huge fan of Grenada," he says once we are sitting in the cabin, drinking tea from bone china tea-cups. His long-haired black and white pet chihuahua by feet, its tiny frame seemingly at odds with his presiding master.

"I first came here on holiday as boy in 1952, and the memories which stayed with me from childhood were the smell of nutmeg and the beauty of Grand Anse beach."

When seeking a location for this venture, de Savary says he couldn't find anywhere else which clicked quite like Grenada, and when you consider the island's history, its undeveloped Robinson Crusoe-style landscape and its co-operative Government, it's easy to see why.

Known as the spice island, Grenada has more spices per square mile than anywhere else in the world, and it was this which enabled the island to survive economically, without the need to invest in tourism like many of its sugar-producing neighbours.

This all changed In 2004 when after a hurricane-free period of forty-nine years, Hurricane Ivan ravaged the island, destroying 90% of its structural buildings and many of the mature spice trees. The panic and devastation in the aftermath highlighted the fact that another strand to the economy was required, and since the Government has actively opened its doors to tourism and foreign investment.

With 36 estate lots, 200 residential units (ranging in size from 900 - 3000 sq ft), a 120 room 5-star hotel with world class spa, plus a 120 room mid-range hotel catering for the tourist market, Port Louis will undoubtedly lead the way in Grenada’s future tourist market.

Plans are already underway to reclaim part of the seafront and create Pandy Beach where diving and watersports will be offered, and de Savary says he hopes Port Louis will regenerate Grenada’s capital, the port of St. George, located opposite.

"What I'm building is a world class harbour,” he says. “Twenty years ago, the Caribbean was a sailing destination, but it isn't anymore. I hope Port Louis will readdress the shortage of marinas for large yachts in the Caribbean, and all over the world.”

"So many places that we holiday in are over visited suburbia, but Grenada is the real West Indies, full of West Indian character and flavour."

"I want to create a unique atmosphere for Grenada; I'm in sync with the culture and history of the island. Barbados is over-developed with high rise hotels on every beach front. Less is very often more, and Port Louis will be chic, low-key and very attractive, staying in scale with the people.”

"And this season business - I'm going to change all that,” he says, dunking his biscuit in his tea. “The whole year is your season in Grenada. The weather doesn’t get any better than this. It’s just like the South of France, and a cooling wind blows like it does in the Alps.”

De Savary says that a stable and progressive Government combined with a low-crime rate and humble and hard-working people make Grenada a safe and lucrative investment opportunity.

“The Government offers friendship, help, co-operation, support and concessions including tax breaks," continues de Savary. "It is a small enough country that it can be managed and it is a listening country. The Government will not allow any building of more than three-stories on Grand Anse beach because they have learned form the lessons of other Caribbean islands. The infrastructure here is second to none. I travel the world with a Grenada mobile; I was using it in Italy last week.”

It seems Peter De Savary’s Grenadian-vision has no-bounds. He has renovated an old plantation house and his other development, Mount Cinammon, situated on Grand Anse beach and consisting of twenty-one self-contained furnished villas with views overlooking the Caribbean Sea, is already 60% sold.

"I start things from nothing. I'm a variation of an artist; I create a scene in a painting."

“We are up to our necks in Grenada and very happy to be up to our necks in Grenada. Every month that goes by we get more committed. It’s a Grenadian adventure; it's not a case of taking the money and run.”

Even the chihuahua is testament to de Savary's commitment. He always had Great Danes he explains, until his wife persuaded him to buy a chihuahua. Enamoured by the breed's large personality and feisty attitude, he decided to get one for himself, which was how he came to own Lord Louis of Port Louis, Grenada as he is officially known – or Louis for short.

“In my view, this will become the most expensive island in the Caribbean. It is currently 40-50% cheaper here than anywhere else – a bargain. It is $2000 a square foot in Barbados, where as you can buy from me half price today compared to other Caribbean islands.”

“Grenada is about having fun and the lifestyle, it's 'barefoot luxury' for people who don't want to find it in American or one of the other Caribbean islands, and you don't need high heels or have to be dripping in Gucci gear for Grenada."

For further information on Port Louis and Mount Cinnamon visit http://www.portlouisgrenada.com and http://www.mountcinnamongrenada.com

Rachael Hannan: Interview 2007

Published on 50connect.co.uk

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