Jamaica: A Weekend Away

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In tight economic times, budget weekend getaway deals are in higher demand than ever before.

Few industries depend upon a strong economy quite as much as the travel industry. After all, most clients see vacationing as a luxury, something they can cross off their to-do list when their budgets get tight or unexpected expenses rise up. So as world economies reach the point of crisis, travel agents (and their commissionable sales) are increasingly at risk.

Some agents are hedging their bets by focusing on high-end travelers, upper-class clients who won’t be hit as hard by the economic downturn as most. But for agents who’ve made strong relationships with middle-class clients, and who make their bread and butter on selling high volumes of mid-priced travel packages, starting over from scratch with a new set of clients doesn’t seem to make much sense.

So what do to? Like your clients, it may be time for you to cut back—but not on sales. Weekend getaway deals to the Caribbean are an ideal solution for the economic conundrum. Shorter stays will cost clients less money, but the Caribbean’s exotic atmosphere and proximity to the eastern seaboard still makes the journey worthwhile. Jamaica, in particular, offers competitive airlift rates and a vast variety of hotels and resorts, many of which have been built within the last year or two and are eager to entice new business with bargain rates and packages. Clients will be happy to discover the wealth of travel deals throughout the island, offering major value without a major effect on their wallets. Here are a few of our favorites.

RIU Hotels & Resorts Whether your clients have their sights set on tourist-heavy towns like Montego Bay or Ocho Rios—or a more laid-back escape in Negril—RIU’s portfolio of Jamaica properties has them covered. The newest of these properties is the Hotel Riu Montego Bay, which opened its doors in September, revealing 450,000 sq. ft. of freeform swimming pools, restaurants, playgrounds and spa. The value here is in the variety, with four restaurants ranging from Asian to Italian, nightly entertainment ranging from gambling to the Pacha nightclub, and opportunities for relaxing beachside, poolside, or in the indulgent Renova Spa.

What’s more, the resort’s location in Montego Bay ensures that guests here avoid paying for costly, lengthy transfers from the airport. It also puts them in close proximity to some of the island’s best attractions, including duty-free shopping, authentic “jerk shack” restaurants and Chukka Caribbean Tours excursions like swimming with dolphins and riding horseback in the ocean. And with early 2009 discounts knocking room rates down as low as $169 pp per night, the resort’s offering the right price at the right time.

Sandals Resorts In recent years, Sandals Resorts has set itself apart as a luxury all-inclusive brand with high-quality spa treatments, expanded room categories and partnerships with specialists like event planner Preston Bailey. But in 2009, they’ll also be known for their stellar deals on those upscale accommodations. When you book a 3-night stay for your clients at any of the brand’s 12 Caribbean resorts, they can save as much as 55 percent off the rack rates. Clients with broader budgets can book a 7-night stay and receive two nights free. And with locations in all of Jamaica’s major tourist areas—from the bustling cruise port of Ocho Rios to laid-back Negril—there’s a way for every type of traveler to save. Rates start at $193 pp per night.

A History of Value Of course, it’s not just the new resorts that are providing great deals to today’s travelers. In fact, where family travel is concerned, it’s hard to find better value than Holiday Inn’s SunSpree properties in the Caribbean. Offering all-inclusive rates and no charge for kids 12 and under staying with a paying adult, the chain’s Montego Bay resort has perfected the recipe for success when it comes to luring families from all price points to its wide, sandy shores.

The children’s facilities at the resort are really what set it apart, particularly an expansive kids’ club with jungle gyms, face painting, arts and crafts, and volleyball and basketball courts. Younger children can take part in guided activities like building sandcastles, while older kids can entertain themselves with pool tables and mini-golf—all while mom and dad enjoy some quality time together on the beach. What’s more, families don’t need to cram themselves into a guestroom built for two in order to enjoy the facilities. The resort’s family-sized suites include a master bedroom and separate, spacious living area complete with a pull-out sofa bed, giving parents and kids their own spaces in the morning and at the end of a sunny, satisfying day at the beach.