On Tuesday I attended the Reunion members’ meeting at the Grande and I’ve collected as much information for you right here as possible. Apologies for any typos or inaccuracies!
Attendance at the meeting
From what I could tell, around 120 guests attended, and the event was hosted by Prem Devadas (President of Salamander Hotels and Resort) and Carlton Grant (Reunion’s MD).
Guests were mainly made up of realtors, property managers and businesses associated with Reunion Resort, along with what appeared to be a smaller number of members and homeowners than I’d hoped for.
Having said that, early September is probably not the best month to host an event if you are hoping to engage with owners.
A rundown of topics covered
The Henderson – A new upcoming Salamander resort over in Destin Florida, dominated much of the early part of the event. The beach front property will open soon, but other than the fact that existing Reunion members can get discounts there, it was hard to imagine why this development got so much ‘air time’ in a meeting that was aimed to update Reunion members about Reunion.
Wyndham Logo – Prem also announced the end of the Wyndham branding was approaching.
Prem advised that the link up brought in much needed revenues during the recession, but in fact appeared to devalue and counter act the resort’s intent to be recognized as a luxury brand.
I couldn’t stop thinking that if Reunion had been that desperate for cash, why not serve their existing membership better.
Membership Growth – I had to laugh at this bit. Carlton Grant was congratulated by Prem for growing membership numbers from 1100 to 1200 in just 18 months. Despite the glowing pride from Prem and Carlton, it’s fairly well understood in Reunion that the many newly built homes were sold over that period with free membership for 1 to 2 years. With that in mind, the credit goes to the builders surely? Also, will those new owners continue their memberships once their free period is over, especially now that Reunion has introduced a kamikaze strategy of 21 days amenity access for non Reunion managed homes. We all know why Reunion is doing this of course and judging by owners that contact the blog, Reunion is resented for their policies on membership.
All Star – Were mentioned, as Prem highlighted that Reunion broke the link to All Star last year. Leaving the resort without a preferred rental management partnership.
Investment – Much was mentioned about future goals for investment. Grand ideas were touched on, such as a new 200 unit extension to the Grande. This seemed hard to envisage as Prem mentioned various sources for that funding, such as tourism development etc. With an estimated $80m cost and completion by late 2017, it seemed to jar with Reunion’s very visible pride in announcing also that some new sun loungers and rooftop decking furniture had been bought.
Surely that kind of expense is incidental and routine and not a subject for a once a year member meet up? Apologies for sounding negative, but it’s a bit like gathering the entire family to announce you’ve taken a shower.
Prem also mentioned building a new luxury pool for adults but no dates of details. That sounds more appealing.
Golf usage – In a time where Reunion stops members’ guests from playing golf even more than ever before (21 days not 42 for new members), it was really surprising to see that Reunion is driving for more members and more golf utilization, particularly on Mon, Tue, Weds (currently as low as 50-60% used according to Prem). Words fail me really, knowing how often we send guests to Championsgate instead of Reunion because of stupid access rules.
Add the fact that we know of a wave of members on the brink of leaving their membership, it really defies logic.
Nicklaus Course – The course’s new 17th and 18th holes will apparently be fully open again in November. That looks tight, but let’s go with that.
The new Nicklaus course clubhouse, will adopt a very cool Mediterranean design and construction will commence in Q1 2016. It will include a gallery terrace overlooking the course, and a 1200sqft fitness room, bar and locker rooms. The clubhouse seemed to be members only/golfers only. I will try to find out more.
Encore – Despite clear evidence of a lot of activity by Encore in Reunion (a separate entity to Lubert Adler and Salamander), the Reunion management seemed to flounder when a member asked about Encore’s ongoing role in the resort.
Encore weren’t available to comment at the meeting for the member’s question.
One thing that was mentioned by Prem from Salamander was that Reunion would be ‘managing and controlling’ the new villas that would be built on around the 17th and 18th holes of the Nicklaus course.
Another question was raised about the low quality of the landscaping over on the West side. Prem’s reply was astonishing; ‘he was not familiar with that area of the resort’. An amazing comment considering the fact that they are so keen to bring on board more homes into their own rental program and that the course has undergone a huge reconfiguration.
I hope this account helps, and I apolgize in advance for any inaccuracies or misheard details, but please comment with any feedback or corrections.