Saint Lucian Judy Deterville, speaks candidly with Daniel Büchler, hotel-builder extraordinaire and his encounter with paradise.
I retired in 2009; my plan was to sail around the world for about 15 years: First the Caribbean for four years, then the next six years in the South Seas and in the Gabon. After four years, I discovered Marigot. The rest as they say is history.
Over a couple of beers, a German introduced me to a house that was for sale. Two weeks later, I bought it and abandoned my plans to go around the world. I settled in Marigot, a place the local people say is magic, and I agree. I found my personal paradise.
For more than 30 years I managed my own company in Switzerland handling a variety of business services including accounting, tax advice, IT and software development, HR and employment services, employing over 100 people. In 2013 I sold it all.
Once in Saint Lucia, I acquired a commercial property on flat prime land in the north that had gone into receivership. My son and I had advanced drawings for a dive centre when I was advised, again over a couple of beers, that I should build a hotel and move the dive centre to the south of the property.
A handshake and we had a deal. I would construct the hotel, and my Saint Lucian advisor’s management company would be responsible for the operations.
The biggest challenge on a construction site is to get the building materials in place on time. I have learned many new, enduring lessons. Some of them are cultural: I now understand that yes does not always mean yes, and I still struggle with what I see as a general lack of professionalism in response time in many instances.
While I settled in Saint Lucia because of its Caribbean charm and the joie de vivre of its friendly, open-hearted people, there is another side to the culture that I have had to learn. The standard response to any problem is “no problem”, which invariably does not solve the problem.
My vision for the Harbor Club is top quality and best service. Whatever we do it must be according to this. I don’t want to do what others do in Saint Lucia; I will be different. Whatever I have done in my life business-wise, I set the standards, and that is what I will do for my hotel. I will not do an all-inclusive hotel, because I could do nothing else but copy what someone else has done. I hate copying. I don’t do it. Our focus is on a business hotel that is less dependent on the seasons. I would like to attract a different market for my hotel and for Saint Lucia.
We anticipate that The Harbor Club Hotel, a 7-storey structure built on 12, 361 square metres of harbour-front property, the most recent hotel project to break ground in Saint Lucia, will be “the first hotel anywhere in the southern Caribbean to get a LEED rating”.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) stands for green building leadership. LEED is transforming the way we think about how buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated across the globe.
One of the most important things for me is service, service with the Caribbean smile. That is the culture and philosophy of the Harbor Club Hotel, the most recent hotel project to break ground in Saint Lucia.
dive enthusias, shares some thoughts with Saint Lucian Judy Deterville:
I was born in Switzerland, where I completed my early schooling and apprenticeships. I did a short stint in New Zealand, learned English, and set off to see the world, travelling and meeting new people. I knew by then what I did not want to do, which was to continue working as a salesman, but I did not know what I wanted to do.
I knew that I loved the water. Even as a small boy, I was always very attracted to the water and the possibility of diving. I continued to gather experience, staying close to the water, learning how to maintain boats and engines. It was towards the end of this apprenticeship that my father decided that he was going to retire, and his decision changed my life plan. I was going to work for him, on his boat. We spent some months cruising through the Mediterranean Sea, and crossed the Atlantic into the Caribbean in 2009.
I started diving at 15. This is my passion, and I got my professional dive certification. The focus now is to bring diving to a whole new level in Saint Lucia, and this can be done through the Dive Centre. Already, we are building partnerships with PADI, and our qualified team has trained many young scuba divers and introduced others to diving for the first time. For the future, we anticipate forming links with the local dive community, which will be of benefit to young children in Saint Lucia. Just Sail is one of the more active groups that we have collaborated with.
Everyone always asks whether I have a favourite dive site on Saint Lucia. I specialize in recreational dives and can dive to the maximum of about 40 metres. I experience amazing encounters every time I dive. The marine life is absolutely breathtaking. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a school of graceful, majestic Eagle Rays or a bale of Turtles swimming up around you. These are the things that add to the quality of a special dive site.
At the beautiful wreck in Anse Cochon near the southern end of the island, we can almost guarantee our guests that they will find Sea Horses, which are not as common in many parts of the world. What I have not seen yet in Saint Lucia is the harmless Nurse Shark. These are very rare; I would love to see them. It makes me sad that they are not around because it is not a good sign.
The experience of diving in Saint Lucia is simply beautiful and this simple beauty is above and below. It is as beautiful below the water as it is above, with all its different dive sites from wall dives to shallow reef dives.