Playa Hotels and Resorts has partnered with the popular lifestyle brand, Panama Jack, to bring guests a new collection of luxury all-inclusive resorts. Under this new partnership, Playa Hotels & Resorts will take two existing all-inclusive hotels in Mexico under a redevelopment throughout this year as they transform into Panama Jack-themed properties. The two soon-to-be Panama Jack-branded properties include the Gran Caribe Resort in Cancun and the Gran Porto Resort in Playa del Carmen.
What does this all mean for Playa Hotels and Resorts? Well, we chatted with Kevin Froemming, executive v.p. and CMO, Playa Hotels & Resorts, to find out what it’s all about.
Michelle Marie Arean (MMA): Can you tell us what travel advisors can expect from the redevelopments of the Gran Caribe Resort in Cancun and the Gran Porto Resort in Playa del Carmen under the Panama Jack Brand?
Kevin Froemming (KF): We are going to be infusing the feel of this whole authentic Caribbean feel, the Panama Jack feel, into both properties. One of the things we’ll do is that it’ll involve some restaurant redesigns, the bar and the lobby entrance. The whole idea is that from the moment they get there, guests will feel like they’re on vacation.
I think the idea of Panama Jack, what really makes it special, is one of two things: One is the brand itself is an extremely strong brand that makes it easier for everyone to sell, including travel agents, because it’s a recognized brand, even though it isn’t a hotel brand, it’s recognized in that beach space, that lifestyle space, and has a great reputation.
And I think most importantly, is the idea that there’s a tremendous amount four-star product out there, especially in the Caribbean and Mexico, and they’re all very similar. When you look at what we are doing with Panama Jack and the design of the restaurats, the bars, the food and beverage, the pool, the beach, what we are doing is that we want it to stand out as a very unique and different concept. Something that people are going to want to go to, that they’ll look to. There’s a lot of good brands in the five-star area, but there are just not that many in the four-star space, I really can’t think of any that have a strong branding.
We want to own that four-star space with Panama Jack. This is going to be our four-star brand that we are going to be promoting.
MMA: The additional resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean mentioned in the press release, are those also rebrands? Can you tell us where they’ll be located or any other information about them?
KF: What I can tell you is that, while we don’t have anything firm today, we are looking to expand this brand into the Dominican Republic, which can include Cap Cana. We also think it’s an excellent brand for Jamaica, Saint Lucia. We’ll be looking for opportunities there, as well as lots of parts in Mexico—Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, and a lot of different areas in the Riviera Maya area as well.
We aren’t set on either [new builds or rebrands]. Some may come as brand-new builds—ground-up builds—and some may come as a rebranding of existing resorts for owners that are looking to tie themselves to a strong consumer brand.
MMA: So there aren’t any plans for any newbuilds for the Panama Jack brand right now?
KF: (giggles) I really can’t talk about it right now. We are looking at a lot of different things right now. But, right now we don’t have anything under construction on the newbuild side.
MMA: In your opinion, what does the Panama Jack brand add to the already popular Playa Resorts brand?
KF: I think what it’s going to represent is first of all, there’s a multi-million dollar investment in both of those properties. What we are going to be doing is using their furniture line. What is setting us apart is that it’s a true partnership. What they’re doing with us is we are designing the look and feel of Panama Jack together. Their designers are involved. Our designers are involved. And what we are going to come away with is an overall better product. What you’ll see is a lot of ambiance, a lot of lighting, music-infused; and the Panama Jack theme will be carried throughout. Right from the arrival, the lobby experience will be themed out and be fun and exciting and it will go on from there.
We just need the support of the travel agents and we’re going to be successful.
MMA: Do you have any types of events or entertainment planned that might tie in with Panama Jack?
KF: We are actually doing that right now. We are going through our whole entertainment and what we are going to do on property. That’s one of the things that our design phase will complete in Q1. We are hoping the first day the hotel will be converted to a Panama Jack will be Oct. 1. [that’s the opening date for both properties].
We are doing this over a long period of time so there will be no disruption of the guests during that period. It’ll be very seamless during that period of April through September.
MMA: I know Panama Jack is very popular with the boating and fishing communities. Will there be any specific tours or expeditions offered at these properties?
KF: We are big on people experiencing the destination. So, having a tour desk there and being able to experience the destination will be a big part of it. We are taking two very successful resorts and enhancing them with upgrades and themes.
MMA: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the partnership and what it means for the hotel brand, as well as the guests?
KF: From our standpoint, we are breaking through the norm on creating these new brands like Ziva and Zilara, which have been very successful. Our Cancun properties, Ziva and Zilara rate number two and three out of 160-something resorts in Cancun. I think we want to build on that success. We are very experienced in the all-inclusive space. What we are looking for is a great resort and a great location using our great people that we have currently running our resorts. We just need the support of the travel agents and we’re going to be successful.
Agents, for those of you who want to get more familiar with the Panama Jack brand, visit playararesorts.com.