A year after its opening, the rebranded Tower Suites is reporting an occupancy rate between 50 and 80 percent.
“The occupancy level has been between 50 [and] 80 percent for most of the time. We are currently bringing a few events on board in order to offer more to the Guyanese population,” a manager at the hotel told Stabroek News in a recent interview.
Last year, the hotel celebrated 150 years of existence and 106 years at its present Main Street location.
According to the manager, who did not want to be named, the rebranding did not affect the hotel as it has continued to receive support. “We have seen persons from in an around the Caribbean… Recently we had the Seventh-day Adventists hold their first bi-annual conference here in Guyana and they chose to stay with us. Outside of that, we have seen other support from other business entities such as Church’s, the Peace Corps, so we get a lot of group activities,” she stated.
Last Thursday, the hotel also launched ‘Music on Main,’ which is aimed at showcasing young Guyanese talent. “…Persons who may not be able to afford a record deal or studio cost, we give them a platform to showcase their talent. We had a very good response to it,” the manager said.
The 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 Corporation.
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 renamed Hotel Tower Ltd.
Though the next 50 years comprised troughs and peaks, the hotel’s ideal downtown location made it attractive to its guests.
Its fortunes began to decline in the late 60s. The owners persevered, however, but in 1988 took on 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. But that venture failed to bail out the hotel.
The investment decision was taken when the economy was booming but the occupancy level fell in the face of political turmoil.
The establishment went into receivership to the Bank of Nova Scotia on April 12, 1999 and the bank appointed Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram as Receiver/Manager.
However, 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 percent 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 the Humphreys opted to sell their 60 percent 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 subsequently 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 Shiwaratan, the hotel was abruptly closed without payments being made to its employees.
In October, 2015, 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 and pay sums 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.
According to the Deeds Registry records, Tower Suites was purchased by S and S mining in 2015.