Times are tough, even at this A-list retreat

Parrot Cay, the superstars' favourite Caribbean island, isn't recession proof. That's good news for the rest of us, says Kate Simon

'We have a no-fly zone over the island – it's been agreed with the government. Although, when the Clintons were here the other week, we had to make space for a helicopter to land, just in case of an emergency."

Grant Noble, general manager of Parrot Cay, in the Turks and Caicos, is telling me how he keeps this 1,000-acre private island in the Caribbean, one of the stepping stones from Providenciales to North Caicos, paparazzi-unfriendly. After all, such considerations are crucial to it maintaining a reputation as one of the world's most exclusive retreats, where the likes of Bruce Willis, Donna Karan and Keith Richards keep holiday homes.

Any paps keen to get an off-guard shot of Bruce, Donna and Keith, or any of the other famous names who hang out here, must try their luck by sea. The only way into Parrot Cay is a half-hour journey by speedboat from Providenciales, site of the nearest airport, a tricky navigation through the shallows, which, on my journey in, required arriving guests to move to the front of the vessel so that we might make the final approach through wadeable waters without running aground.

Noble hopes future guests might include Madonna, who got a taste of Parrot Cay when she attended the wedding of Bruce Willis and Emma Heming here in 2009. His plan is to persuade her to lead the charge of superstars to the newest holiday home on the island, Tamarind – five beds with gym and pool – which sits away from the main beach alongside the other privately owned mansions on the island's millionaires' row. It's a snip for the stellar at $13,000 a night.

But times have been tough in the Caribbean. The increase in air passenger duty (APD) and the rising price of oil have squeezed the airlines, putting more pressure on hotels and resorts to offer better rates and add value. Parrot Cay, one of the signature properties of Singapore-based Como Hotels and Resorts, renowned for some of the world's most luxurious lodgings and spas, is no different.

This little paradisiacal island, with white-sand beaches melting into turquoise seas and a hinterland of mangroves, may have built a reputation as one of the world's most elite retreats, where movie stars and billionaires can go barefoot on the sands for a few days (protected by the island's troop of Gurkhas and attack dogs, never seen but always present), but it also needs to attract the bottom-end bucks, too, and keep up occupancy in the leaner months from April to December.

So Noble is keen to attract potential guests from across the price range, introducing a raft of new deals and value-added services. Potential guests can now buy 14 nights for the price of 10, seven for the price of five, and four for the price of three until high season kicks in again next December. And value-added initiatives include in-resort credit and free food for kids.

Noble also plans to introduce more affordable dishes in the resort's two restaurants, Terrace, in the hotel, and Lotus, by the pool, which serve superior flavours influenced by Italy, Asia and the Caribbean. Then, of course, there's the advantage of the pound's strength against the US dollar, the currency used here. You can currently book a star-spotting week on Parrot Cay from £1,800 B&B or £2,768 full board through ba.com.

"Even though it's more affordable, it's not cheap," Noble admits, "but we deliver the quality." Indeed, they do. Como's Christina Ong is the doyenne of luxury hoteliers. She has gained a loyal following for the restrained glamour of her properties since launching The Halkin in London's Belgravia in 1991. Her spa concept, the Como Shambhala Retreat, where guests can indulge in Asian-inspired treatments and join classes run by some of the world's leading practitioners of yoga and Pilates, has few rivals.

When Ong's husband, the global property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, bought Parrot Cay in 1998, she kept the original Caribbean-style hotel at the heart of the resort, paring back the worst exotic excesses of its previous Kuwaiti owners by introducing simple white and teak interiors and light Balinese wood furniture.

That palette has been repeated on the villas she has built along the dunes on the main beach. These yellow-pine structures look a little like sheds from the outside, until you notice that they are accompanied by private sun decks, plunge pools and gazebos. Inside, they are deceptively simple in their luxury. Sitting rooms and bedrooms are orientated on vast windows that frame the natural beauty outside. Every chair, lounger, settee and four-poster, muslin-draped bed has been sited for maximum enjoyment of the views.

This relaxed beach-side living comes at a pretty price; several thousand dollars a night. Most staff are from Bali, Ong's preferred recruiting ground (there are many locals, aka Belongers, working here, too) and I'm assured the tips earned by the villas' butlers can be big enough to build a house back home. Some parts of Parrot Cay will always be out of bounds to us ordinary folk.

Compact Facts

How to get there

British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com/turksandcaicos) offers seven nights for the price of five at Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos (parrotcay.como .bz), from £1,754 per person, including return flights from Heathrow to Providenciales, return boat transfers and B&B in a garden room at the hotel, with one child under 12 staying free if sharing with two adults.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions