When it comes to dedication to the environment, the St. Regis Bahia Beach in Puerto Rico is in a league of its own. The 139-room resort sits on a 2-mile private beach surrounded by El Yunque rainforest. The only AAA 5-diamond resort in Puerto Rico, the hotel is also the Caribbean’s first and only Certified Gold Audubon Signature Sanctuary. From top-tier meeting facilities and luxurious amenities, to a dedicated “green team” that includes an ecologist, two agronomists, and a landscape architect, the St. Regis Bahia Beach hotel marks the spot for sustainable incentive planning. We recently spoke with GM Terry Bechtold to find out about what the green team does for groups.
PREVUE: Can you tell us about the eco/green vibe at the resort?
TERRY BECHTOLD: The St. Regis is in an environment where green/eco is very important to the guests and the local community. We are Puerto Rico’s first AAA 5-Diamond Property and a resort that is in touch with nature. We show our respect to the environment. There are a lot of things that connect us to nature around the resort.
Can you provide some examples of the initiatives that the resort practices?
We try our best to show our respect for the environment. One example is the endangered leather back turtles that are on property. The isle of Puerto Rico is known for turtle nesting and we have it on our 2-mile stretch of beach. There are two different areas where the turtles come onto our beach and we want to preserve that environment so they don’t go elsewhere. Our waters do not allow motor vehicles; we make sure that we aren’t disrupting the sand and lighting. Light has a lot to do with where they go and what they do. We try our best to make them a priority onsite.
We have a hydroponic garden onsite and a nursery. We also make our own mulch on property by breaking down cardboard. Right now we are changing the light bulbs on property to LED to conserve energy. We reduce the amount of fertilization and pesticides and water.
Do planners/groups appreciate that?
There are many companies that are out there today that will only choose hotels that have certain guidelines in place when it comes to sustainability and the environment.
Can you tell us about unique outdoor programs that groups are participating in?
The Spa Without Walls program is very unique that we’re trying. We connect the spa services with the environment. The program allows the guests to choose almost any location on property for their massages or spa treatments. This includes our hiking trails through the rainforest. Groups can also choose from cabanas on the beach, grassy areas, and our running trails through the forest. We are looking at different areas within the nature setting with more of a soft lighting and outdoor, romantic vibe.
With the acres that we have here, we are able to utilize a lot of space. We even have bridges to Bird Island where you’ll see iguana nesting and miles of trails where you’ll see birds on the sanctuary. You can spend your days jogging, walking, riding, bikes or golf carts, and exploring the nature of Puerto Rico. There are a wide variety of animals on property also. There’s quite a connection to nature here. There are very few locations on the island that have all that we have.
Can you tell us about outdoor recreation for groups?
At the Boathouse we have enough bicycles for groups if they have planned activities. Also paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, fishing poles, etc. We have enough equipment for groups to use during their stay. We have a 2-mile beach for groups to have sandcastle competitions. We’ve seen some 30-foot castles by groups.
What is the feedback from groups/planners?
Our groups can choose anywhere. Obviously, if they are looking at a St. Regis, they are looking for the best of the best when it comes to luxury. Our service levels are extremely high. That’s why we’ve received the recognition that we have.
We also have a very unique setting. We have a certain culture that drives groups to us. We’ve had a very successful year and the future is looking even better. The group pace is ahead of where we were last year. The entire resort was built and planned around preserving the setting. That’s a big selling point for us when planners are scouting the property. None of the buildings go above the trees, nothing was disturbed when the property was built.
Can you tell us about outdoor venues onsite?
We have many different places onsite. We have an amazing Plantation Lawn and Plantation House with an ocean view for 400-pax. Right now, we have a group using it that has set up croquet and volleyball courts. It doesn’t interfere with the other guests. Rain doesn’t slow us down either; we have plenty of covered terraces. We are setting up a 5-mile run for a group that goes through the nature trails. There are about 50 people participating.
The resort has had amazing growth. We’ve developed such a great response from the community of groups. The resort is doing very well. We continue to make great connections. We’ve positioned ourselves very well and it’s been a great addition for St. Regis.