PHOTO: The old deserted Sheraton Hotel is on a 10-year course to be fully refurbished.
The long-abandoned hotel in Vaima’anga, located in the southern part of Rarotonga within the Cook Islands, is currently undergoing renovations, with its first guests expected to arrive in just a couple of months. The former deserted Sheraton Hotel, once plagued by rumors of a curse and associated with failed renovation attempts, is now on a 10-year journey towards complete refurbishment. The initial phase of this project, slated for completion by the end of November, will include 41 rooms and a new swimming pool.
The history of the original hotel is marred by financial difficulties that nearly bankrupted the Cook Islands, tales of Italian Mafia involvement, and supposed curses. The revitalized property will boast multiple swimming pools, a tennis court, restaurants, available apartments for purchase, guest accommodations, and private beach access. Additionally, a new road is being redirected around the back of the property.
Christopher Vaile, a prominent New Zealand-born businessman who has resided in Rarotonga for over five decades, took on this ambitious endeavor at the request of the landowner and paramount chief Pā Ariki’s lawyer. He acknowledged that he embarked on this project somewhat impulsively, driven by a sense of duty. He observed the property deteriorate over the years and believed it could be saved, albeit not as a five-star resort.
The vision for the renovated property differs from its original plan, as it will include apartment sales and guest accommodations but will not directly manage its restaurants. Vaile emphasized that he is using his own capital for the project and is not dependent on bank financing. Both locals and foreigners will have the opportunity to purchase apartments on the premises.
The property aims to be self-sufficient, generating power on-site through a combination of hydro, solar, and diesel sources. Despite Vaile’s efforts to maintain a low profile, the sheer size of the building and its proximity to the main road make it challenging to go unnoticed. Security measures have been put in place to deter unwanted visitors and prevent theft.
The local response to the development has been met with some skepticism due to past failed attempts to revitalize the property. However, Vaile remains optimistic and dismisses the rumored curse as a mere “fairy tale,” emphasizing the importance of a positive mindset.
With past experience in restoring old buildings, including a 13th-century castle in Poland, Vaile understands the challenges involved in such endeavors. He advises against pursuing similar projects solely for profit, as they can be arduous undertakings.