Recommend’s contributing writer Donna Ray had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Froemming, executive v.p. & chief marketing officer for Playa Resorts Management, at the Nov. 19 grand re-opening celebration of Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos. Playa Hotels & Resorts is the exclusive purveyor of Hyatt’s newest expansion into the all-inclusive market via its all-new Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara brands throughout Mexico and Jamaica. The reimagined resort on the Sea of Cortez reopened on Sept. 15, one year and one day following its closing due to damage sustained from Hurricane Odile. The resort’s transformation features a newly redesigned open-air lobby, 591 suites (including 34 swim-up suites), a KidZ Club with waterpark, and 12 distinctive restaurants, bars and lounges.
Donna Ray (DR): Why did Playa Hotels & Resorts team with a leading U.S.-based hotel company to create an all-inclusive brand?
Kevin Froemming (KF): Number one, the all-inclusive concept in the Caribbean and Mexico is the rule rather than the exception. It’s the most successful growing segment in those markets. From a consumer standpoint, there’s such value and ease of planning in an all-inclusive vacation. As far as working with a U.S. company, Playa Hotels & Resorts’ CEO, Bruce Wardinski, looked at several major players. The reason the fit is so good is that Hyatt was willing to create new brands rather than wrap an all-inclusive concept into an existing brand. Hyatt affords us years of experience and excellence in food and beverage, and a wealth of resources in creating these venues.
DR: What is your service goal in doing so?
KF: We want to be in that five-star category. We are so passionate about redefining the luxury all inclusive experience that we even gave it a name. We call it The Evolution of All Inclusive. Teaming with Hyatt lets us deliver that consistency of product that is critical, while creating resorts and experiences unique to each destination. We want each guest to be able to find a personal experience while discovering the essence of the destination. We strive to always be great. For example, TripAdvisor has ranked Hyatt Zilara Cancun #2 for the last six to nine months. We plan on keeping it there and moving to #1! It comes down to consistently delivering authentic experiences and quality service–Service From the Heart. It’s all about raising the bar and rethinking what a luxury all-inclusive vacation can be.
DR: How is the partnership playing out?
KF: Our partnership is extremely successful because Hyatt was willing to create unique brands—Hyatt Zilara for adults only and Hyatt Ziva for guests of all ages. Hyatt brings tremendous brand vision while Playa brings expertise on designing, managing and operating all-inclusive resorts. This partnership means guests benefit from a wealth of detailed amenities and services that are enveloped in creative architecture with thoughtful deco and design.
DR: What about your Nov. 15 opening of Hyatt Ziva Cancun?
KF: It’s on a magnificent piece of land at the tip of Punta Cancun that’s surrounded on three sides by the Caribbean and adjacent to Mayan ruins. The resort is at the former site of the Dreams Cancun that featured the iconic pyramid architecture of Ricardo Legoretta. Respecting and maintaining its classic pyramid-style architecture, we spent approximately $85 million expanding and reimagining the resort to create an atmosphere that reflects the culture of the Yucatan. A bridge connecting the north and south beach provides guests easy access to both beaches, as well as entertainment, dining, and other resort features and amenities. Quite frankly, it’s the single most spectacular game-changing resort I’ve ever seen! From our standpoint, that’s what we strive for—creating a resort that not only fits the destination, but has that ‘wow’ factor. There’s a commitment to the brand’s excellence instead of just taking a block of concrete that could be anywhere. We want to keep the authenticity of product and brand. And to do that, we have to become one with the destination.
DR: Why do Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara have such broad market appeal?
KF: They are brands that were created by examining and understanding guest expectations and preferences. When looking at the U.S. as a dominant marketplace, people are interested in getting the best possible Caribbean or Mexico vacation. All-inclusives are a natural fit for destination weddings, honeymoons, celebrations, and for families doing multi-generational travel. We’re also becoming a favorite in the meetings and incentives market, where planners want a quality all-inclusive experience. Hyatt Ziva appeals to all of those segments and demographics.
DR: Aside from the brand backing, what differentiates Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara from other all-inclusives in their respective destinations?
KF: One of our key distinctions is that we create dining experiences that are unique for each resort. For example, at Hyatt Ziva Cancun, we have a classic American diner, Chevy’s, and it has a 1957 Chevy with a dining table in it. At Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, the Spirit of 68 sports bar is themed around the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. For many years, all-inclusives stayed away from fire pits. That’s not the case with our resorts. They all have this amenity. And at Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, we’ve added fire pits within reflection pools so you’re surrounded by water when sitting by them. All these little touches and surprise amenities help guests understand The Evolution of All Inclusive. A lot of consumers think of all-inclusives as being cookie-cutter rather than unique or special. The cool thing we’re doing with Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara is bringing in a new customer, who is a sophisticated traveler and may not have previously considered an all-inclusive vacation. We’re bringing in new EP customers that have an affiliation with Hyatt to broaden the audience.
DR: What about strength of property locations?
KF: Each of our resorts is in a unique location that offers many benefits. For example, Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos is five minutes from the picturesque town of San Jose de Cabo and on a beautiful stretch of beach. In Cancun, Hyatt Ziva is the only resort surrounded by water on three sides with breathtaking views, and in Montego Bay, Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall and Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall are only 15 minutes from the airport while offering a beautiful beach and golf location.
DR: What about your travel trade partners?
KF: The single most important distribution point for all-inclusives, and for Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva, is our trade partners. We need and want agents to carry our message. Since launching our resorts only two years ago, we’ve had more than 16,000 travel agents visit our resorts. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received in a short amount of time. Tour operators with companies like Flight Centre Canada, Classic Vacations, Pleasant Holidays and MLT Vacations are all wonderful. And they all have one thing in common—they have solid relationships with top travel agents. We work with them to carry our message directly to agents and agents are talking to consumers. At every grand opening, you’ll see 700 to 1,000 agents and wholesalers. Prior to even opening Hyatt Ziva Cancun, we hosted more than 800 agents for site inspections. And at the recent opening of Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, we also had around 800 agents experience the resort. You might say we put our money where our mouth is when it comes to supporting the trades.