Sol Kerzner dined with two 6-ft. models the night that the Royal Towers and the Mayan Pyramid had their official opening. I knew better than to stare. I also knew Michael Jackson was upstairs in the instantly iconic Bridge Suite, and I knew the mythologically themed casino, the “ruin”-filled aquarium, and the new Aquaventure water park were unlike anything else in the region. I knew it all, right? Wrong, as I realized on subsequent trips. And now I’m back from my fourth visit, a trip inspired by two events: Atlantis, Paradise Island’s 20th anniversary and its linking up with the Marriott Autograph Collection.
Although Atlantis can now be booked through marriott.com, autographhotels.com or marriottrewards.com as well as atlantisbahamas.com, it remains an independent hotel. Thus, says Karen Cruitt, leisure sales v.p., “the complimentary WiFi offer [that discriminated against guests who bypassed agents and tour operators] is not valid at Atlantis.” Also, she adds, “We are not currently participating in the Marriott agent program.” What incentives does Atlantis offer? A straight 10 percent commission, for now, says Cruitt. “We support our wholesale partners and their relationships with the retail sector, [so] Atlantis does not offer competing commission programs.” The resort does offer agent rates for stays up to three nights and discounted day passes. “We greatly value the contribution and support from the retail travel community,” says Cruitt. “Our ongoing sales initiatives include in-market as well as webinar training programs in conjunction with our wholesalers.”
If it’s not quite a Marriott, will clients be able to earn reward points? Melissa Alexander, director of leisure sales, replied, “[if] agents with clients who are Marriott Rewards members make reservations directly with the Marriott call center, [the clients] will earn their reward points.”
a look back
When Kerzner International Ltd bought Merv Griffin’s resort and casino in 1993, it renovated the rooms, restaurants and casino; built some aquariums and Paradise Lagoon; and opened in 1994 as Trump Plaza, not Atlantis.
“‘The water runs through it’ was the marketing theme,” explains Ted Adderley, v.p., sales and marketing. “We were marketing to adults.” The casino was key; ditto, the nearby Ocean Club Golf Course. However, says Adderley, “Customer feedback told us that families loved the aquariums,” and that led to Phase II.
Phase II was radical. In 1998, the new Royal Towers more than doubled the rooms total to about 2,300, and even the name of the resort changed: from Trump Plaza to Atlantis, with allusions to the lost continent everywhere: the fantastical towers (Royal, Beach, Coral); The Dig (a rambling aquarium where fish weren’t labeled but the “ruins” of Atlantis were); the Mayan Pyramid centerpiece of the new water park; and an “artifact”-filled casino.
“When we started we had the Las Vegas Revue. We changed from casino-centric to more of a family resort,” says Kendyce Moss-Moultrie, v.p. of operations, Coral and Beach towers.
The marketing change was radical, too: Although Kerzner still courted the nightlife crowd with casino and clubs, “Phase II was about The Myth,” explains Adderley. Ads emphasized fish, rides, ruins, and runes.
For Phase III (2005-2007), a new Cove hotel lured guests with sophisticated style, the new Reef rented suites to families who wanted kitchens, and a marina village attracted yachties. Atlantis expanded the beach, water park, aquarium (e.g. Dolphin Cay), choice of pools, and kids programs. It unveiled a tennis center, new spa, celebrity-chef restaurants (e.g. Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, Nobu) and family eateries (Carmine’s, Johnny Rockets). Adderley labels this “all-encompassing Atlantis.”
Officially there is no Phase IV, yet Atlantis continues to add things: interactions with sea lions and stingrays, snorkeling in The Dig, new gambling options, private cabanas, more state-of-the-art facilities for kids and teens, a speedway for remote-controlled cars, more celebrity appearances, designated areas for family weddings, a brand new “Atlantis Celebrations” program to personalize weddings and every other kind of celebration, and restaurants, including affordable eateries (e.g. Quiznos). Call the toll-free number now and you hear this intriguing line: “Where water meets wonder.”
So how should agents sell a complex that now has 3,500 rooms/suites, 40 restaurants/bars, a beach, umpteen pools, the Atlantis casino, movies, nightclubs, pottery-making, rock-climbing, its own Junkanoo, kids’ camps, one of the world’s largest aquariums, and a 141-acre water park? “Ask the client, What are you looking for?” suggests Adderley. “Whatever it is, they can do it here.”
Of course, many of those diversions cost extra, lines are unavoidable at certain rides, and people who want pristine nature or watersports like sailing and windsurfing may be disappointed. That said, there is an amazing variety of things to do. Ergo, Adderley’s characterization of Atlantis as an ideal multi-gen destination and his conviction that when adults-oriented Baha Mar opens March 27, it won’t dent Atlantis’ appeal to families and to kids of all ages.