Enjoy the Personal Touch at The Villas At Sunset Lane in Antigua
by Karen Rollins Apr 1, 2019
Antiguan hotelier Jacqueline Cort-Thomas was not always interested in managing her own property
After working for years in corporate America as a tax accountant, Jaqueline had initially decided to focus on her passion for Caribbean cuisine, retrain as a chef, and study the science of food. She had an idea to start a business which would offer private catering for high-end clients in New York.
However, those plans were halted after an internship at one of the four W Hotels in NYC which opened her eyes to the hotel business.
Jacqueline says: “I was so impressed with the boldness of colours used in the rooms, the welcoming service offered by the staff, and the feeling of being pampered in someone’s home. And at that moment, I decided to duplicate such a property in Antigua, where I grew up.”
A rocky road to success
Jacquline’s experience at the W Hotel inspired her vision for a 10-room, Caribbean-themed property in St John’s.
In 2007, when the Government of Antigua offered concessions for the construction of small properties for the Cricket World Cup which enabled the purchase of building supplies, furniture and fixtures tax free, Jacquline seized her chance.
She bought some land with her sister and business partner and two years later The Villas at Sunset Lane opened its doors.
However, Jacqueline reveals that as the new kid on the block, the reception from other hoteliers on the island was not always welcoming.
“No one extended a hand to me,” she says.
“It was a lonely path; I felt push back and in one case outright animosity, but I ignored it, worked around it, and moved forward.”
In time Jaqueline proved her critics wrong by winning numerous industry awards, including recognition from leading travel site Expedia and the Antigua Tourist Board.
10 years later – what next?
In 2019, The Villas at Sunset Lane will be celebrating a decade in operation, and Jacqueline hopes to expand to a 15-room property that can thrive in a competitive industry which also has to deal with the challenges posed by Airbnb.
She says: “Airbnb has done an excellent job in forcing prices down, so more hotels are available to individuals unable or willing to pay higher prices for the wonderful service they would receive.That has impacted me, so I’ve had to change, or else I’d end up being a dinosaur.”
Learning from experience
Jacqueline has four nuggets of inspiration for anyone aiming to become an entrepreneur.
*Have a clear vision and a detailed plan of how to execute it.
*Do not rely on external forces to provide the encouragement or motivation you need to keep going.
*Ensure there is enough flexibility within your plan to enable you to make adjustments when necessary for continued growth and success.
*Make sure what you’re offering is unique.
Jacqueline believes the unique selling point for The Villas at Sunset Lane is its ambiance. It’s an ideal location for anyone looking for a quiet, pampered environment.
The bonus is the owner, who loves cooking for guests, and fuses Caribbean and international flavours for an unforgettable cultural and culinary experience.
To learn more about The Villas at Sunset Lane, visit the WE-Xport booth at the Barbados Manufacturer’s Exhibition (BMEX) in June 2019. The WE-Xport programme is an initiative of the Caribbean Export Development Agency.