The doors of the Tower Suites, rebranded to continue the legacy of the Hotel Tower, were formally opened last evening and Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) Director Indranauth Haralsingh hailed it as both historic and timely.
Speaking at the opening on behalf of Minister of Telecommunication with responsibility for Tourism Cathy Hughes, Haralsingh noted that as the country celebrates its fiftieth year of independence, the Tower brand, which is Guyana’s oldest hotel brand, will be celebrating 150 years of existence and 106 years at its present location.
He welcomed the reimagined hotel and encouraged it owners to invest both in the development of tours and eco-tourism packages and the training of its staff. “We welcome the Tower Suites, which provide additional choices and encourage persons to patronise and review Tower Suites’ brand and experience. We urge the owner to invest in tours, packages and in developing Emerald Towers as we wish the business every success. It is our hope that it is a precursor of a major national effort to join worldwide explosions of the leisure industry. It is the delivery of exceptional customer service that will make Tower Suites a world class home away from home,’ Haralsingh said.
Tower Hotel has been operated by several owners during the course of its history. 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 present location on Main Street 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, but 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 Receiver/Manager of Hotel Tower.
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. The entire hotel was completely remodeled. A new bar, nightclub and gym were among the features added.
In 2014, under the ownership of Azeez, US-based businessman James Manbahal, Bharti Persaud Misir and Varendra Shiwratan the hotel was abruptly closed without paying its employees termination benefits due to them.
In October last year, a court ordered the payment of over $10 million in wages, salaries and severance owed to them. The claim was in relation to failure by the Hotel Tower to give notice of termination, pay severance allowance, and pay sum in lieu of notice of termination as is required by law and grant leave with pay and pay the entire amount of wages owed, contrary to the Labour Act.
In 2015, it was purchased by S and S Mining Company, according to the Deeds Registry records.
One of the owners of the hotel, who only gave his name as Mr. Khan, had told Stabroek News last year 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.
It was not able to open for New Year’s Day and questions were recently raised as to whether it would be open for the independence celebrations.
Among the hotel’s present attractions are a nightclub Prestige, a restaurant Café Nouveau, the only “swim up” bar in the country and a live arapaima housed in a pond on the premises.