|If you’re a Recommend reader who sells Caribbean travel, chances are you’re a big fan of Sandals and Beaches resorts. Agents have awarded dozens of Readers’ Choice Awards to the brands|
in recent years, giving the resort chains some impressive winning streaks. Sandals, for example, has won Best Resort/Hotel Chain, All-Inclusive (six years); Best Resort/Hotel Chain, Spa (seven years); Best All-Inclusive Resort Chain for Travel Agent Support (seven years); and Best Resort/Hotel Chain in the Caribbean a whopping 10 years. It also took the top prize in a new category this year, as Best Resort/Hotel Chain for Destination Weddings and Honeymoons. Beaches, too, has had a winning streak as the Best Resort/Hotel Chain, Family-Oriented five years running.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but that philosophy is applied to every detail, Stewart explains. From its Beringer wine selection to included scuba diving to constantly renovated accommodations, each resort is always at the top of its game. “We just go overboard with allowing people to get more value, dollar for dollar, than is available anywhere else,” Stewart explains.
That strategy also works in the many niche markets Sandals serves. Honeymooners, for instance, appreciate details like accommodations designed to be “love nests,” as Stewart describes them. The biggest news in romance innovation is Sandals’ planned over-the-water suites at the Sandals Grande St. Lucian, with construction set to begin in 2012. The collection of 16 suites will feature see-through glass floors and decks hanging out over the sea, plus outdoor showers, jacuzzi tubs, and underwater lights to allow guests to see beneath the surface even at dusk—perhaps while relaxing in their over-the-sea hammock. These accommodations aren’t just new for Sandals; they’re the first of their kind in the Caribbean.
Wedding couples have even more options when it comes to planning their getaway, including free basic wedding packages as well as upgraded options designed by the likes of Martha Stewart—packages that are revised about once every year to keep up with trends in the wedding industry. The company also caters to both romance and family niches with itsFamilyMoons Weddings, including a unity candle ceremony that imitates the combining of the two families brought together by the marriage.
Services and facilities at the Red Lane Spa, Sandals’ signature line of spa and fitness havens, are also getting an upgrade in the coming year. The Red Lane Spa at Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort in Jamaica will get updates like coral stone around its plunge pools, a new color scheme and Indonesian paneling, all as part of a $60 million upgrade that touches almost all of the resort. “All the services we have, have all been beefed up,” Stewart says.
At Sandals, the focus is on couples and their intimate moments together. Beaches, on the other hand, aims to create fun and memorable vacations for families—enlisting the help of kids’ favorite characters and brands in the process. Partnerships with entities like Sesame Street, Xbox and DJ Scratch Academy help to set the brand apart from its competition, Stewart says. But it’s about the basics, too. Those 15 restaurants at Beaches Turks and Caicos? They help ensure that everyone, even the pickiest eaters, can enjoy mealtime, Stewart notes.
Whether they’re couples or families, travelers to Sandals and Beaches do often discover that they’ve gotten great value out of their vacations—and the proof, Stewart says, is in the numbers. The brands are so popular with travel agents, he explains, because clients come back again and again. “It pays off, because the customers tell their friends, and their friends tell their friends. Last winter, we had four hotels that…from Christmas until the end of April, had over 50 percent occupancy from returning guests,” he says. “It’s never happened in the Caribbean before.” l