All-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean are enjoying a climate of “continuous improvement”, according to a key industry figure.
Caribbean Tourism Organisation head of marketing Julia Hendry said the luxury market has been given a dramatic overhaul in the past two years, with many resorts spending millions on revamping their facilities. She added: “The Caribbean has so much good quality luxury product to offer now.”
In a bid to reflect ongoing upgrades to its resorts, Sandals has run a huge marketing campaign to promote its rebrand to ‘luxury included’ as well as offering 25% off its holidays. Sandals chief executive Adam Stewart said the past 12 months have been its best booking period.
Kuoni reported a dramatic rise in sales to Sandals resorts, particularly in St Lucia and Antigua.
Kuoni product manager Karen Walpole said: “Sandals has been clever as it put its rates up and spent a lot of money on marketing. It has had a lot of interest from the press and is reaping the rewards.”
But Stewart believes it is Sandals’ ‘toned-down’ image and move away from its garish floral decor that has attracted UK tourists. He added: “We have come a long way from the 1980s and guests are seeing real value for money.”
Sandals Antigua is Kuoni’s second-biggest-grossing hotel on the island after the all-inclusive Galley Bay, which opened a new spa this month and introduced 24 beachfront suites. Hawksbill by Rex Resorts and Jolly Beach Resort are also performing well.
Walpole added: “All of the resorts on the island have been improving their product with new spas, revamped rooms and more choice of room types. There is a good range of three to five-star hotels.”
Jamaica still remains the Caribbean leader in the all-inclusive market, thanks to the large number of hotels on the island.
Cosmos introduced the resort of Falmouth in Jamaica to its 2008 programme. The resort features the family-friendly three-star Starwich Trelawny hotel, which offers three pools and a kids’ club.
Couples Ocho Rios is poised to receive a £7.7 million revamp. The resort will close for renovations on April 1, opening its doors again on December 15 to reveal a renewed lobby area, spa, restaurants and pool facilities.
With a new collection of upmarket suites in Jamaica, Antigua, St Lucia and the Bahamas, Sandals has worked hard to upgrade its product.
Sandals Montego Bay unveiled 59 spruced-up rooms and suites in eight categories last April, while Sandals Grande St Lucian added 18 Rondoval suites, each with its own indoor whirlpool bath and outdoor plunge pool.
Mediterranean Village opened at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa last October with 180 suites, some with plunge pools and butler service. Eight new plantation suites are poised to debut in late April at Sandals Negril Beach Resort and Spa in Jamaica.
Five of the West-Indian themed suites will have a private plunge pool, outdoor shower and garden, while the remaining three will feature private balconies. Sandals Regency St Lucia is set to launch seven one-bedroom villa suites with private pools.
Sample package: Complete Caribbean offers seven nights’ all-inclusive in a honeymoon plantation junior suite at Negril Beach Resort and Spa in October for £1,528 per person, with flights and transfers.
Beaches has expanded the water park at Beaches Boscobel Resort and Golf Club in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, which opened last September.
For summer 2008, Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa is set to open a water park, tipped to be the largest in the Caribbean. The resort will also house an Italian Village with family suites, restaurants and shops.
Sample package: Virgin Holidays offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa for £1,579 per person for departures until December 2008, including flights and transfers.
Breezes Runaway Bay on the north coast of Jamaica underwent a complete overhaul last year, adding a new area of rooms and suites, some of which have plunge pools.
Refurbishment works are taking place in all other resorts in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Curacao. Breezes Jibacoa in Cuba, is also set to revamp in the next six months. New resorts include the family-friendly Starfish Santa Luzia in Brazil, which opened last year.
Sample package: First Choice offers nine nights’ all-inclusive at the Breezes Varadero resort in Cuba for £665 per person in April, including flights and transfers.
Following a full year of renovations, the Club Med resort of Gregolimano is poised to reopen in June in the Greek island of Evia.
Appealing to the luxury family market and couples seeking an active getaway, the resort will offer 70 rooms, 24 suites and 30 interconnecting rooms as well as activities, including water skiing, wakeboarding and circus skills.
Last year, Opio en Provence in France and La Plantation d’Albion and Pointe aux Cannoniers, both in Mauritius, all showed off their new developments. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic has also been spruced up for summer 2008. Its new facilities include beach tennis and a Baby Club Med.
Sample package: Club Med offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at Gregolimano for £575 per adult and £328 per child for departures on September 26, including flights, transfers, insurance, group sports classes and entertainment.
All rooms at Lakitira Beach Resort in Kos are getting a facelift in time for the summer.
Sample package: Mark Warner offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at Abu Soma in Hurghada in Egypt, for £725 in June, including flights, transfers, windsurfing, sailing, tennis, aerobics and childcare for the over twos.
Elite Island Resorts
Celebrity designer Linda Barker created the kids’ club at the Verandah Resort and Spa in Antigua. The club offers a treasure hunt and play area. Galley Bay’s 24 new beachfront suites have flat-screen TVs with DVD players, a king-size bed and double shower.
Sample package: Kuoni offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at Galley Bay, Antigua, for £1,591 per person in June, with flights and transfers.