CUPECOY--Timeshare owners at Sapphire Beach Club and Resort have been informed unexpectedly by popular timeshare exchange network RCI that the property "has been placed on suspension status and we must suspend your privileges in both the RCI Weeks and RCI Points Programs" effective immediately.
The suspension apparently is tied to the property's multiple maintenance issues, although no reason was specified in the letter.
According to a confidential source, RCI suspended the working relationship with Sapphire as a result of numerous complaints concerning maintenance issues, allowing for three months to rectify the situation. The relationship might be reinstated at a later date, pending a thorough inspection by RCI in May.
Confidential sources said all the timeshare owners, some of whom were very upset, had been notified of the development.
A copy of the RCI letter obtained by The Daily Herald was dated January 20. Questions that remain unanswered since then have been sprouting up on the property's profile on social media as well as TripAdvisor. Many of these comments are similar in character, referring to a once-beautiful property that has deteriorated seriously over time.
Not far off from other reviews, one recent comment read: "This once outstanding St. Maarten Resort has been neglected by management for several years now and has finally been removed from RCI affiliation by RCI. 2014 was the last visit I had taken to my time-share at SBC.
"Total disappointment. My room smelled of mold. It appeared that it still has the original mattress which was moldy smelly. The bed sheets were so old they had become transparent. The microwave did not work. Only one stove top burner worked. The fridge was rusty. Its freezer compartment completely frozen over.
"The compressor made such a loud sound it kept everyone awake at night. One of the Aircon units leaked and management placed towels on the floor as a 'fix'. The furnishings had never been changed since 1994 and it looked it. The toilet never flushed correctly. It took 4 flushes to move toilet paper down and out.
"The only building elevator quit working after the second day of our vacation, forcing everyone to use the stairs with luggage in tow for a day. Workmen arrived and did some repairs to get it working again but the very next day it broke down again and remained down for two more days."
Some timeshare owners also said that RCI should have notified them of the situation before maintenance fees were due.
Rumours that could not be confirmed are circulating that the property might be sold soon.
In its letter, RCI refers timeshare owners to Sapphire Beach Club for any further questions, but multiple attempts by this newspaper to reach Sapphire proved futile.
Online tourism newsletter SXM Weekly News author Jeff Berger said in his latest publication that both parties had "been remarkably silent about who initiated the split between these entities, why it was initiated, how long it will last, and whether there will be any changes after this has been resolved."
In regard to the rumour of a sale, the author said, "There appears to be no immediate interest by a new, professional operator for the resort," adding that a sale "has been the subject of an unending train of rumours for several years."
The RCI letter stated, "... during this suspension, RCI is unable to accept any deposits made by or on behalf of RCI members from Sapphire Beach Club, or allocating any RCI Points based on an ownership at Sapphire Beach Club."
RCI explained, "Any unused RCI points on your account for Use Year 2015, 2016, or 2017 which may have previously been allocated based on your ownership at Sapphire Beach Club, or any unused vacation time from Sapphire Beach Club deposited into the RCI Weeks or RCI Points Exchange Programs will remain available for use through the original expiration date" pending a few conditions.
Numerous unresolved complaints by tenants, timeshare and condominium owners previously prompted a surprise day-long control of the property by the Economic Affairs Inspection Department TEZVT and several other government entities, which took place in June 2014.
The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication subsequently said the property needed "a massive renovation" and called the situation "totally unacceptable" after an inspection carried out by some 40 controllers revealed exposed wires, wastewater in the basement, mould and mildew, and possible sewage water.
A Cabinet official said at the time that the control was the first of its kind and that additional TEZVT controls were to be expected in the coming months, in collaboration with other ministries.
Whether those follow-up inspections took place could not be ascertained on Monday.