The newbies all share certain themes, such as an emphasis on dining and spa services. What’s more, says Monica Smith of Altours, they share a special appeal to “middle-market clients…who can only afford one vacation per year, mostly families with combined incomes between $35,000 and $50,000. These clients want to know that once they get to this destination, that’s it—no more spending.”
Still, no two snowflakes are alike, and ditto, all-inclusives. Moreover, these resorts’ incentives for travel agents vary. So with the spate of new kids on the block, let’s look at how each one is distinctive. (All rates noted in the story are basic rack rates.)
seashore bay beach resort
Karisma Hotels & Resorts has converted Sandy Bay Beach Resort in Negril, formerly a Sandals, into the Seashore Bay Beach Resort. But although the relaunch took place in December, Karisma’s work is not done, because now it’s turning this 128-unit resort into a Gourmet-Inclusive Azul Hotel (more of what that means can be found in the February 2013 issue’s Karisma story on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive).
“Once Seashore Bay becomes an Azul, it will target families and couples,” says Mandy Chomat, v.p., sales and marketing at Premier Worldwide Marketing. Azul Hotels are the exact right fit for families as they offer Fisher-Price toys and programs. That means “My Gym Children’s Fitness Center activities, splash parks, teens’ clubs, movie nights with popcorn, and Pack & Play, providing everything from baby bottle warmers and Gourmet Gerber baby food…to strollers and monitors. Similarly, Azul Hotels are ideal for couples,” he adds, noting the “in-suite jacuzzis, candlelight dinners on the beach…the Vassa Spa, and an adults-only section.”
Karisma uses the term “Gourmet Inclusive” to describe the whole resort experience, not just the cuisine. But okay, what about the cuisine?
Jeroen Janlo, Karisma’s v.p., food and beverage, and creator of the Gourmet Inclusive program, was a chef for 30 years, working in Michelin-starred restaurants and opening several world-class hotels; World Traveler even named him “Chef of the Year.” Janlo has installed Jonatan Gomez-Luna Torres of famed El Bulli, in Spain, as Karisma’s executive chef, and Gomez-Luna has added bold, cutting-edge dishes to the usual all-inclusive menu of traditional favorites. Of course, their focus is on a la carte dining.
Rates range from $529-$1,143 per adult through March 31 plus $100 per child, ages 3-12. After March they vary every month, going down to $363-$936 per adult and $67 per child in June. Commissions can rise to 14 percent, depending upon productivity, and occasional promotions boost that even higher. For example, a 5 percent bonus recently raised some agents’ commissions to 19 percent. Karisma occasionally schedules webinars as well.
jewel runaway bay beach & golf resort
Formerly the Breezes/Super Clubs, Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort, near Ocho Rios, launched in November after Aimbridge Hospitality completed a multimillion-dollar renovation. The resort features 266 rooms and suites (some with private plunge pools) in clean, white, 2-story buildings. Amenities include three pools, five restaurants, a Radiant Spa, nonmotorized watersports, and an 18-hole championship golf course.
“What sets Jewel Runaway Bay apart…is our Kid’s Club, offering comprehensive programs for five different age groups from infants to teenagers, and activities for the whole family like our new Red Ruby Ranch with a laser tag park and bonfire paddock. In addition, a spectacular water park will open in 2013,” says Michele Olivier, regional v.p. of sales & marketing, Aimbridge Hospitality Resort Division. Moreover, “guests enjoy complimentary greens fees and classes at the only on-island Golf Academy at the adjacent Runaway Bay Golf Club, and we pride ourselves on our signature Jewel exclusives like the pool concierge, dive-in movies with jerk popcorn, and ‘Gem of the Day’ cocktails.”
Altours’ Smith has booked several young couples and families into Jewel Runaway Bay. “The feedback,” she reports, “is excellent.”
Rates start at $573 per couple per room through April 1 ($458 after that). Children under 12 sharing the room stay free, add $100 per night for 13- and 14-year-olds, and children 15 and up are charged as adults. Add-ons include the New Year, New You Radiant Spa package: At $52 pp per night, it includes an initial spa consultation and one spa/salon treatment daily. Use supplement code SPADELIGHT when booking. Jewel Runaway Bay Beach’s “Aim for the Stars” Travel Agent Loyalty Program (aimbridgerewards.com) includes courses, and the resort offers agents a $95 pp rate.
braco village hotel & spa
Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts has relaunched this property in Trelawny with a “rediscover Braco” theme. Stretching along more than one third mile of beach, the new Braco Village has 226 units of varying sizes, three swimming pools, four restaurants, and a substantial spa.
With its central plaza and 2- and 3-story pastel buildings sporting gingerbread balconies, Braco Village suggests an idealized Jamaican town. Non-motorized watersports, tennis, soccer, basketball, hiking and jogging, training in the fitness center, activities/classes throughout the day, and a kids’ camp are included. There’s a weekly street party, but above all, the new Braco Village is for people who seek a low-rise getaway that emphasizes charm and unusually affordable rates.
To that end, high-season rates for two adults range from $360 to $504; add two children under 12 and the range is $540-$756. Shoulder season rates for two adults are $226-$371, or $340-$557 with two children. Blue Diamond does not offer commission bonuses or courses, but it does arrange do-it-yourself FAMs and agent specials. Contact Mizane Boreland-Morris (876-632-7226; email@example.com).
memories white sands beach resort & spa
Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts will open a second Jamaica property, Memories White Sands, in October. This 344-room resort in Trelawny will cater to families and couples, primarily from the U.S.—ergo, the 24-hour sports bar. Todd Kirlik, director of sales and marketing for North America, describes the resort’s ambiance as “affordable luxury.” Rates were not yet firm at press time, but Kirlik did say, “We will be priced at the five-star level and will compete in that space.”
royal decameron fun caribbean,
This north shore resort’s 215 rooms and suites occupy nine 3-story buildings with primary-color accents near a white-sand beach protected by a breakwater. “We cater to all types. However, our core market is most probably the 35- to 50-year-old couples market,” says marketing chief Bill Bowers. The Royal Decameron Fun Caribbean does not have a spa, but it does have a nightclub, piano bar, fitness center, and nightly shows that cater to adult tastes. The sheltered, open-air main restaurant offers buffet meals, but guests may order a la carte at dinner, and there’s also a snack grill that serves Jamaican-style dishes.
That this new Royal Decameron has a 5:2 ratio of bars to restaurants might imply that it’s one big nonstop party, but two of those bars are the quiet beach bar and quiet pool bar, so this resort accommodates both party-hearty and escapist types. For the actively inclined, there’s the aforementioned fitness center, tennis courts, and non-motorized watersports.
Unlike most all-inclusives (not to mention traditional hotels), the room categories are uncomplicated: 210 doubles and 15 suites. Doubles cost $209 in high season and $153 during the shoulder season, making this a good option for clients on a strict budget.
Countering the trend among some hotels to encourage direct bookings, Bowers praises the air-hotel packages offered by Funjet, Apple Vacations, Vacation Express, Air Transat-Nolitours, and Air Canada. Royal Decameron does not offer commission bonuses because so many agent bookings come through these and other suppliers. Some of the tour operators run FAMs.
riu palace jamaica
RIU hopes to debut this property in December. “The RIU Palace Jamaica will be a luxurious, 238-unit, adults-only hotel next to the RIU Montego Bay, in the beautiful bay of Mahoe,” says Laura Robles Landis, press manager for the Americas. “Guests will be able to enjoy all the facilities of the RIU Montego Bay hotel, including its theater with live shows every night, the 24-hour sports bar, the Pacha nightclub, and Renova Spa.” Despite its relatively modest size, though, it will have five restaurants and a 24-hour bar in the lobby.
Unlike older RIU resorts, the Palace will evoke contemporary, “chill-out” Ibiza, featuring a sleek, modern design with open spaces and colors such as black, white and purple. The Spanish chain plans to use this decorative style in all its new projects, and WiFi will be free throughout the property. “I am positive the RIU Palace will make a statement in Montego Bay when it opens,” says Altours’ Smith.
RIU has not yet determined rates, but it’s reasonable to assume they will be higher than those of the sister resort. When the RIU Palace begins to accept reservations, it will use riuagents.com, a direct sales distribution channel. The Riu Partner Club loyalty program (RPC) will offer special travel agent rates, discounted day passes, and double- or triple-points incentives.
meanwhile, on st. lucia…
In November, Elite Island Resorts re-opened the former Morgan Bay Beach Resort as the St. James Club, Morgan Bay. The multimillion-dollar overhaul includes a full remodel of the swimming pools, additional outdoor dining, and a new Tranquility Body & Soul Spa that’s set on a hillside and features products by Pevonia and lovely water views. All the 310 guest units, which range from Garden View and Beachfront rooms with informal Caribbean decor to hillside suites with dark-wood furniture, balconies, and dramatic vistas, have new furnishings and flat-screen TVs.
The property features multiple restaurants, bars, and pools, plus a kids’ club for children ages 4-11. More to the point, the new St. James Club enhances St. Lucia’s reputation as a destination for active types: It offers a fitness center, tennis courts (two of them floodlit), and not just non-motorized watersports, but also water skiing and banana boat rides. There are eight to 10 free activities per day, including volleyball, dance classes, mixology classes, table tennis competitions, and fitness classes with five (!) personal trainers now on staff. Need some work on those abs? This is the place.
Through April 7, rack rates range from $725 to $1,050 per couple; with two children ages 2-16, rates range from $1,040 to $1,170. April 8 through Dec. 20 rates range from $588 to $963 per couple; $908 to $1,108 with two children.
Elite Island Resorts offers bonus incentives to agents, including a 15 percent commission on new bookings made via Elite. A new 7 for 7 Rewards program awards agents a 7-night stay in return for their first 7-night booking and a 7-night stay for their companion upon their second booking. Elite Island Resorts’ travel agency resource center also provides support to U.S.-based agents arranging reservations, client requests, and FAM trips. For more information, call (800) 498-3548 or visit eliteislandresorts.com/travel-agents.
Braco Village Hotel & Spa: (873) 732-7226; bracobeachresort.com
Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort: (800) 758-2252; jewelresorts.com/resorts/runawaybay or jewelresorts.com/travel-agents
Memories White Sands Beach Resort & Spa: (855) 261-3448; memoriesresorts.com
RIU Palace Jamaica: (800) 748-4990; riu.com or riuagents.com
Royal Decameron Fun Caribbean Runaway Bay: (855) 308-0375; decameron.co/pageworld.php