While keeping only the word ‘Tower’ the new owners of the former Hotel Tower are continuing renovations and hope that when it opens shortly, the new name and investment would be enough to resuscitate the entity and erase negative business connotations.
“We kept the Tower part of the name but don’t want it to be Hotel Tower and will take out Edge Night Club. [We] don’t want any association with anything that was the old hotel…,” one of the principals of the entity told Stabroek News.
According to Deeds Registry records, the hotel was sold to S and S Mining Company.
This newspaper understands that it was sold for over US$8 million.
One of the owners of the hotel, who only gave his name as Mr Khan, told Stabroek News that the company had plans to open in time for New Year’s day but could not commit to that given that many aspects of the construction were still being worked on. “We were trying for that but I don’t want to say yes and then we don’t and are held to our word,” Khan said.
He informed that with the new infrastructure the hotel also plans to add “a whole lot of new stuff” to win back the hearts of old customers and attract new ones.
As such he remains confident that with stellar customer service and myriad other packages, the hotel can once again be a renowned establishment.
“We have a new system, the atmosphere is different we are trying to do something so different people will appreciate…I can’t say too much now but give us some time,” he stated.
And while the new owners are mulling the retention of a night club at the location they are sure that the name ‘Edge’ will be erased as they want no association with that former entertainment facility.
This newspaper was told that local artists will be able to rent space to show off and market their talent and the hotel will also partner with tour operators here to facilitate tours and expeditions.
Hotel Tower first opened its doors in 1866 on the site of the present Guyana Post Office. In 1910, it was re-sited to its current location under expatriate ownership. In 1946, the property was acquired by a Guyanese/Barbadian family, the Humphreys, along with 50 other shareholders and re-named Hotel Tower Ltd. Though the next 50 years comprised troughs and peaks, the hotel’s ideal downtown location made it attractive to its guests.
In 1966, on the occasion of the hotel’s Golden Anniversary, a commemorative stamp was struck in its honour. After that its fortunes began to decline.
The owners persevered, however, and in 1988 it immersed itself in further debt to finance the upgrading of the facility to a five-star hotel.
The upgrading plans included the establishment of the Emerald Tower Rainforest Lodge at Madewini. That initiative failed to bail out the hotel.
The investment decision was taken when the economy was booming but the momentum was not maintained and the occupancy level fell in the face of political turmoil. As a result, the lack of returns did not allow for money to be reinvested because it was diverted to paying crippling debt.
The establishment went into receivership to the Bank of Nova Scotia on April 12, 1999. The bank appointed Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram as the Receiver/Manager.
Even as efforts were made to turn the fortunes of the hotel around and to find a buyer, business continued to decline, with the average monthly room occupancy dipping to approximately 25 per cent of total market share. In mid-2003, the Bank of Nova Scotia ceased its receivership hold on Hotel Tower Ltd in an equity transaction which saw a local investor group with businessmen RL Singh, Amarnauth Muneshwer and Ashoka Singh of Canada emerge as the new majority shareholders. Some of the small shareholders who were originally with the hotel had retained their business interest while Humphrey opted to sell his 60 per cent stake in the business.
The hotel was again sold in February 2009 to Canal Hospitality Inc, a business partnership headed by Salim Azeez, with US-based businessman James Manbahal, as well as Guyanese Varendra Shiwratan and Bharti Persaud Misir as directors. The entire hotel was completely remodelled. A new bar, nightclub and gym were among the features added.
From then on, until it abruptly closed its doors again last year the hotel has had persistent financial problems.
It was because it was facing foreclosure that in May 2014 the hotel closed leaving 50 persons jobless and owed over $10 million in wages, salaries and severance.
The workers were consistently promised their due but had to turn to the Ministry of Labour to intervene as several months passed and payment was not forthcoming. The ministry took the owners to court and won that case when in October Magistrate Dylon Bess ordered that the former employees be paid $10 million.
Many of the workers have gone on to work at the Marriott Hotel and other service related businesses, mostly in the capital.
The new owner has not yet begun the recruitment of staff.