Thursday 24th November 2005

 

Kariwak - more than a hotel

 
 
 
 
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The sun-lit restaurant at Kariwak, where guests are daily served with home-made breads and bakes

In December 1999, Kariwak Village Holistic Haven and Hotel copped the Prime Minister’s Award for Tourism. Owners/managers Allan Clovis, right, and his wife Cynthia receive their award from then Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, left, at the Trinidad Hilton

BY SANDRA CHOUTHI

If Kariwak Village Holistic Haven and Hotel changes hands anytime soon, it won’t be the size of the cheque that will sway its owners to sell.

“We’ve been in business for 25 years,” said Allan Clovis, in an interview on Monday.

“Everything has a season. I think we need to look ahead over the next five years for what will take place. We realise we can’t go on forever.”

Clovis, who’s co-owner/manager of the place with his Canada-born wife Cynthia, was uncomfortable with the expression that Kariwak is for sale.

“Everything’s for sale,” he said.

He preferred to talk about the business of service, of aesthetics, of Kariwak’s 70 per cent repeat customers, of its herb garden, of his wife training the staff and working with them to bake breads and pastries and make sauces and jams from scratch.

“I feel Kariwak is more than a hotel,” said Clovis, who will turn 62 on December 18.

“It’s become a kind of institution for the industry. It’s not just another hotel. That’s why I hesitate to say it’s for sale.”

The realistic side of Clovis said while the running of Kariwak 24/7 is a labour of love, he knows he’s not getting any younger.

“Management needs to look ahead. We ought not to sit around and wait for things to happen,” said Clovis, who’s also on the board of Tobago Express.

“We’re testing the waters, that should there be any interest out there that resonates with what Kariwak is about, we won’t be averse to entertaining any serious inquiries. We have here more than a real estate stock. We have a human capital stock, and these days that has some value.”

The issue of Kariwak’s sale was discussed at its board level last Saturday, the same day he spoke with his 45-member staff, of whom he said he’s always been protective. Sixty per cent of the Clovises’ staff has been with Kariwak for at least ten years, he said.

“The staff is not for sale,” he said.

There was a unanimous feeling among board members that a change in Kariwak’s management needs to be treated with dignity.

“If people have an interest, we could sit down and talk. We’re not in a rush. Kariwak’s not something we have to get rid of, we have no creditors on our heels, we are very comfortable,” said Clovis, who was raised in Arima.

“We just have to be realistic, one has to plan. If you want to be out of here in three to five years, we have to start sending a signal now. Maybe we could get a joint venture going so there is a phasing of ownership. This is why price is not the object.

“It’s not a question of the highest bidder, but a quality bidder who wants to give me some assurances.”

Even as he said that no creditors are knocking on Kariwak’s doors, Clovis spoke of “some forces within the community” which are “chipping away at your energies.”

He spoke, too, of the shortage of labour because it’s difficult for the hospitality industry to compete with the Government paying labourers $140 to work for an hour or two.

Talk of the Clovises searching the market for the right people to take over its management comes at the same time that the Ministry of Tourism presented it with a service award at Angostura House yesterday morning.

“It was a serious survey,” Clovis said.

“It was the first time the (tourism) industry saw to getting a reading on visitor experience in a fairly scientific way. I wasn’t even aware they were doing this. For a hotel between 18 and 74 rooms, we came out as number one.”

In the past, Kariwak has got awards for the best landscaped facility and best hotel in T&T for three consecutive years.

The sale of Kariwak is being handled exclusively by Dawn Glaisher’s Sea Jade Investments, which is listed with Association of Real Estate Agents (Area).

“We will network through the Internet. Sea Jade Investments is managing the approach,” Clovis said.

“Dawn will more than likely share the information with other agents who may have an interest like this. She selects the clients.”

 

 

 

©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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