Sustainable by design
Underpinning the whole resort, quite literally, is an approach to environmental awareness driven by necessity. There’s no natural water source on the island, so Mr Bengt has built an underground network of water tanks that hold up to two million litres, capturing and self-sufficiently processing rainwater for use by the resort and the islanders. Waste water is never expelled into the sea – instead it’s used to irrigate the resort’s expansive gardens. Maintaining awareness on green issues, in line with local culture and the natural environment, is of paramount importance here. Guests are offered filtered rainwater rather than bottled and, where possible, ingredients from the hotel’s own organic garden and fruit trees at mealtimes. What the resort can’t produce itself is purchased locally from the island’s fishermen and growers, encouraging sustainable practices that fund the local economy.
The BBH’s sustainable approach extends to people as well as the environment. Mr Bengt is somewhat of a local celebrity in this department and it is heartwarming to hear from the staff and others about how he has helped them in their lives. After years as the island’s biggest employer, the BBH has done a world of good for the infrastructure of the island and its people. In fact, if you Google ‘who owns Bequia?’, you’ll find Mr Bengt’s name emblazoned in bold at the top of the page, although that’s actually incorrect. Wherever possible, Mr Bengt employs Vincentian staff and trains them up. The Mortstedts also support and encourage the development and use of locally owned businesses, activities and restaurants.
I take a lovely day out for a tour of the island with Gideon, who owns one of the island’s taxi companies. Acting as de facto island historian, he drives me through a beautifully raw, rugged landscape that’s steeped in amazing stories, yet has a laidback, sleepy-island vibe. We pass tiny village communities with their loud churches as well as hectares of lush forests and windy coastal roads, where each uphill climb reveals an even more jaw-dropping view of the azure-blue bays. Even in the ‘capital’, Port Elizabeth, the epicentre of tourism (Bequia gets its fair share of cruise visitors), the atmosphere is low key – small trinket stalls, hole-in-the-walls and little gingerbread houses and shops line the dusty road around the enormous almond tree that is the town’s best-known landmark. And, while the main attraction for visitors are the Belmont Walkway and Princess Margaret Trail, most people spend their time watching the kids play cricket on the beach and race to jump off jetties and somersault into the water.
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The next generation
There’s an evolution afoot at the BBH, mostly owing to Philip’s and his fiancée Elinor’s influence, as well as that of his sister Jennica. Mr Bengt is seemingly handing over the reins to his children, something he doesn’t deny. In fact, he tells me it frees up time for him to build even more things – a new pool right up by the beach is in the works. Philip’s latest developmental win is a tennis court – it will be the only one on the island and Mr Bengt has already earmarked a piece of land for it, although its building comes a little slower than Philip would like.
But, add that to a long list of recent improvements – including speedy WiFi throughout the resort, a chic Ibiza-esque tent extension to the rum-shack beach bar, refreshed marketing and stunning drone footage on the property’s social media – and you see change in motion and a desire to court a new generation of guests. Elinor has even revamped the resort’s boutique and put in choice souvenirs, including her own line of sustainably sourced swimwear, Bequia Beach Bums. If you’re so inclined, you can buy a pair of shorts with a cartoon likeness of Mr Bengt on them.
But the latest innovations come outside the resort. At Jack’s Beach Bar, also owned by the Mortstedts and just a short drive from the hotel, inventive cocktails and food dominate the menu. A DJ plays chill-out music to the sunsets that come daily to this modern beachside oasis.
A 35-metre superyacht, Star of the Sea, is moored a mile away from the property and bobs tantalisingly in the distance. The gorgeous Italian-built Benetti takes guests on VIP day trips (I thoroughly recommend the short cruise to Mustique) or further afield to Tobago Cays, Mayreau and other islands. Up to 12 live-aboard guests can be accommodated in the six ensuite staterooms.
The hotel’s private plane – dubbed Bequia Air – is a nine-seater King Air B200, which makes the transfers to and from Barbados in just 30 luxurious minutes. That’s half the time of scheduled carriers, improving connectivity and developing a market for on-demand, luxury island transfers from anywhere else by request.
And, in new news, is the launch of a collection of super-luxe villas unlike anything that Mr Bengt has ever built, tucked away on a hillside, with every embellishment a buy-out guest could want – spellbinding infinity pools, wine cellars and lavish entertaining spaces. They’re now open to those who want to get away from it all and experience the allure of Bequia in privacy but with a dash of Mustique pizzazz; a far cry from the current feel of the BBH.
There’s a famous Swedish word – ‘lagom’. It means ‘just right’ – not too much, not too little. And that ideology is certainly inherent here at the BBH. But, with the handing on of the torch, comes great responsibility and, while I’m quite certain that the new generation of Mortstedts will rise to the occasion, I hope that they retain some of what is bewitching about the place and find ways to contemporise but never replace Mr Bengt’s original philosophy.
The Bequia Beach Hotel – and its role in creating an opportunity for gorgeous, unpretentious escapism on the island – comes from what has been a lot of gut instinct and unbridled passion. One possible risk lies in the hotel’s search to redefine 21st-century hospitality in the Caribbean as it reaches out to new types of guests – which will be inevitable. But my hope is that the resort will never lose what actually makes it so effortlessly enchanting.
Uwern travelled to Bequia Beach Hotel via Barbados and transferred to the island by Bequia Air that offers scheduled or private transfers to and from Grantley Adams International Airport or anywhere else by request. His international flights were made more luxurious thanks to Signature Elite Class, whose private-jet-style service for commercial passengers at both London Gatwick and Barbados airports (as well as London Luton and many other Caribbean and international destinations) offers airside, on-tarmac limousine services to and from aircraft, private terminal check-in, security and arrivals clearance and five-star, private lounge service.
www.bequiabeachhotel.com | www.bequiaair.com | www.signatureeliteclass.com
Photography courtesy of Bequia Beach Hotel and by Uwern Jong