World Investment News (WI): Can you give our readers a bit of background on Range Developments: How were your beginnings, what have been your major milestones and what plans for expansion in the region do you have?
Mr. Mohammed Asaria (MA): Range Developments started in the Caribbean in 2012 and our first project was the Park Hyatt St. Kitts which was not only a major milestone for us, but also a key milestone for tourism in the Eastern Caribbean when the Hotel opened in 2017. We had great reviews from international media outlets such as CNN, who presented us in 2017 as the best new Hotel in the Caribbean, as well as, Vogue who featured us as one of the most anticipated regional hotel openings. I am happy to say that this praise has translated into fantastic guest reviews and satisfaction. This Hotel has really helped bring St. Kitts and Nevis to the luxury hotel forefront in the region with a 20 per cent year on year, increase in tourism numbers.
This development has not only been great for St. Kitts and Nevis' luxury tourism sector, but it has become an example of what can be achieved through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI). It proved the concept that a development project can raise capital through the CBI and put it to use in order to create maximum economic impact. Today, there are over 320 people working there, 94 per cent of which are Kittitians and Nevisians; and during construction, the site had over 900 people working on it. This proves the thesis that a well branded and executed project will have benefits, not just for the investors whose prime motivation is citizenship, but also for the country and its people.
This has been an important milestone for us; another one is the Hotel we are constructing in the island of Dominica, where our Kempinski branded development is scheduled to have a soft opening the 14th of October, and on November 2nd the grand opening party will take place. Here as well, we have over 700 people on the job site, and I must say that training and recruiting for employees has started. This will be an ultra-luxury 5 star hotel with the same luxury standards as the Park Hyatt in St. Kitts.
After the success and great reviews Park Hyatt received in St. Kitts, we decided to repeat this feat in Dominica with the Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski, Dominica; and we are now starting a third project in the island of Grenada, where we are constructing our newest development, the Six Senses La Sagesse, Grenada. The ground breaking for this latest project is scheduled for the end of August, and construction will start shortly thereafter. I must say that I was in awe the first time I saw the site, we have been blessed to find it and extremely lucky we were the first developer to discover it. We are not only going to build a fantastic resort on the site but we will make sure we preserve the integrity and harmony of the site. We will create a sustainable development that is in balance with the nature and its surroundings.
WI: You are redefining luxury in the region; what are some of the benefits of becoming an owner; and what factors and advantages set your projects aside from the competition?
MA: It is not only about the development and facilities themselves, which are state-of-the-art and second to none; it is also about the service we provide. All our developments, be it the Park Hyatt in St. Kitts, the Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski in Dominica or the Six Senses in Grenada, offer some of the best services in the world. This is a reality because we invest heavily in training our people; in St. Kitts, we started our training programme 18 months before the Hotel opened. We went to the communities and trained the people in those communities, we worked with the Hospitality School to ensure that we not only got the best people, but that we thought them the best practices as well. We have developed an approach where we collaborate with the communities as well as the hospitality schools in order to really form, capacitate and train our workers with a strong focus on best practices and services. This level of service obviously makes a difference, it makes our guests feel at home, and they want to come back and repeat the experience. All this is extremely important to us, and I think it is one of our added values.
I also want to point out that we have an incredible track record when it comes to completion of projects. The design is created by renowned architects; we attract capital through the CIP with the aim for the project to stand up on its own two feet. The design as well as the business plan and feasibility studies must be thought through, down to the last detail; and more importantly, you have to have the ability to execute, and you need the right people to do this. This is why our workforce and training programmes are so important. We employ some of the best engineers in the Caribbean to ensure that we have the right product and that we are able to execute and deliver on our vision.
WI: How would you define collaboration between government and the private sector, or in this case between government and Range Developments in order to boost high-end real estate and hospitality?
MA: The Eastern Caribbean has a limited land mass, and in order to get the maximum economic impact, we should target high end tourists, and this has to be done through a solid and well thought of strategy. With regards to Grenada, the government has encouraged us and welcomed us to deliver a project that will be transformative, not just to the island, but to the Eastern Caribbean. In the La Sagesse area in Grenada, we have acquired close to 70 acres of land, there will be two hotels within this luxury lifestyle community as well as branded residential offering. Our development will be transformative to the area - it will be an ultra-luxury five-star resort, with an equivalent of three and a half employees assigned per room - this ensures a significant impact through job creation and economic impact.
In a project like this, there should be a symbiotic relationship between the developer and the government. For us to be successful, the whole island has to be a part of that five star experience. From the moment a tourist lands in the island, takes a taxi and arrives at the hotel, tours the island, goes to dinner - the quality of the food - until the moment he goes to sleep, it all has to be part of an integrated luxury experience. For this to happen, the government has to buy into the private sector's vision; it is the only way to ensure that the vision is executable. This is why the government-private sector collaboration is key for the success of, not only high end developments, but for the tourism industry in a country.
The economic impact of our projects is significant as I have pointed out, but it is also necessary to give back to the communities in which we operate. We are very much involved in this through our Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. In St. Kitts we have recently built a Community Centre, we believe it is also key to support local entrepreneurs through investing in their businesses and providing them a market place.
During construction stage of our projects, we ensure skill transfer, through training local employees in different fields such as carpentry or stone masonry. We support entrepreneurs through loans to acquire equipment, which is off set against the purchase of output. After completion of our project, these individuals can then sell their output to other developments. This is a fundamental part of our ethos and vision, and it demonstrates our commitment to the communities and the countries in which we operate.
WI: As one of the key developers in the region whose products are CBI authorized, what can you tell us about the CIP and Range Developments as a strategic partner?
MA: We work with CIP consultants and other partners to promote our products in markets in which investors are looking for citizenship products. We are certainly strategic as you rightfully noticed. The Range Developments brand is recognised as a safe and secure investment; and hotel brands know that we will execute on the business plan. Our brand gives the jurisdiction a certain amount of credibility, and we believe that in each of the countries where we have been successful, we act as a beacon and a halo for the CBI industry in that jurisdiction, because it shows that the citizenship capital is being used sensibly to develop a luxurious asset which has many benefits for that island. We do our due diligence fully before we invest in a country.
WI: What can you tell us about Range Developments' promotional approach; how do you raise awareness about your projects and what role does China's play in your marketing strategy?
MA: The Chinese market is of significant interest to us since over a third of our investors come from China. There is also a significant interest among Chinese investors to invest in Grenada. There are important benefits that Grenada offers with regards to its CBI, one of them is the Visa free travel to over 130 countries, including United Kingdom, China, Russia, the EU, etc.
With regards to Range, I must say that we work with some of the most recognized brands in the world such as Kempinski, Park Hyatt and the Six Senses. We work with some of the largest immigration agencies in China, which have access to the consumer market, and we provide the best tailored product for a specific market.
WI: What closing message would you like to convey to the 14.6 million readers of the South China Morning Post?
MA: It is quite simple, if at the end of the day we can deliver on our business plan, which is creating high end products in the Eastern Caribbean, and we can do that in an ethical manner with a positive and real economic and social impact - be it through job creation or our CSR initiatives - then we have made a difference;
I would like to end this conversation by saying that investing in Grenada provides you and your family (including siblings, parents and children) with a unique opportunity, which is to invest in a beautiful country and become a citizen subject to due diligence. It allows you to be treated as an equal to Grenadian born citizens. Once you become citizen, you will be so for life, you have the right to live and work in Grenada, the right to pass on citizenship to future generations, you can hold a dual citizenship under the laws of Grenada, the option to apply as an investor under the United States' exclusive E-2 Visa programme. To all this you must add a low tax regime that safeguards citizens from inheritance, gift and capital gains tax; as well as safeguarding non-resident citizens from wealth and foreign income tax.
To finish, I would like to underline that an investment with Range is an investment with a developer who respects its word and respects its obligations. An investment with Range is unique, as is, an investment in Grenada.