Rendezvous is owned and operated by the Barnard family, who opened their St. Lucian family home as a hotel 50 years ago.
The Barnard family’s ancestors left Plymouth, England on 6 September 1620 to start a new life in America. They settled in Carolina and today still have family connections with the USA. Slowly the family moved down into the Caribbean and by the early 1800s they had arrived in St. Lucia as teachers.
In the 19th Century coal was the biggest industry in St. Lucia and swiftly the Barnards became one of the three biggest family businesses exporting coal out of the naturally deep harbour at Castries. Tokens minted by the Barnards can still be found in the island’s museum, which were given to labourers when they had worked loading coal onto boats in the harbour; they then handed these in for cash. The Barnard and Company coins ended up being used as currency around the island.
The family thrived and began to invest into sugar plantations in St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Andrew Barnard’s grandfather, Denis Barnard, was the founding father of the hotel business. An orphan as a result of Spanish Influenza, at the tender age of six, he was educated at agricultural college in Trinidad and returned to reinvigorate the family sugar estates. Denis was an innovator, a shrewd businessman and a hard worker and this combination turned the family business into an empire.
By 1932, as well as the sugar plantations, he had founded the distillery at Dennery. Today this distillery produces some of the finest rums in the world, such as Bounty Rum, Chairman’s Reserve and the renowned Admiral Rodney.
In the 1950s, Denis, encouraged by his wife Marguerite, bought a plot of land to build a small getaway. Sitting on Vigie beach, the new house, Malabar, nestled amongst the palm trees and looked gracefully down onto the Caribbean Sea.
The house he built had a large tiled bar that opened up onto the beach. Denis was quite a character and his fondness for company meant that he invited many of the tourists walking on the beach in for lunch or dinner, served by Lionel his butler. Imagine their surprise when they asked for the bill only to be told that they were actually in someone’s private house.
The 1960s saw a surge of tourism in St. Lucia and Denis soon saw an opportunity. He built a series of guest cottages on the beach next to the main house that eventually became the main guest rooms when it turned into a hotel. There have been many famous guests wandering in and out of his house and the hotel over the years, such as Led Zeppelin and 10cc. The crew of the Royal Yacht Britannia were so impressed with the toasted coconut desert that they were served they took the recipe back on board.
Spotting the opportunity to harness the new tourism industry, Denis’s son Craig, President of SunSwept Resorts, set out to learn the business and attended L’Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland. Craig returned to St. Lucia and turned Rendezvous into one of the Caribbean’s most renowned resorts.
Under Craig Barnard’s management the business grew and by the 1980s he also opened BodyHoliday Saint Lucia, now recognised as one of the leading health and wellbeing resorts in the world.