The Evolution of All-Inclusive

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The world has changed over the past year – and with it, the world of all-inclusive travel. Here’s how several island destinations have adapted.

With all the twists and turns of the tumultuous year of 2009, perhaps no segment of the travel industry has transformed as much as the niche of all-inclusive resorts. In the Caribbean, the past year forced many resorts into a balancing act, with customers’ tightened budgets on one side and increased expectations of luxury on the other. Despite these challenges, the Caribbean’s all-inclusive market has earned widespread demand—and continues to expand to new destinations. Here’s a look at how three destinations adapted to the changes, from islands steeped in all-inclusive tourism to those just joining the trend.

jamaica In Jamaica, where a boom of all-inclusive resort development has forced resorts to compete even more heavily for tourist dollars, chains like SuperClubs are taking measures to reposition themselves in a newly crowded marketplace. “[The all-inclusive market in Jamaica] has changed, in the sense that a number of the large European players have opened resorts in Jamaica,” explains SuperClubs’ president Paul Pennicook. “RIU, Bahia Principe, Fiesta Americana—all resorts with between 700 and 1,000 rooms.” The addition of these large properties makes it even harder for established resorts to compete, and not just because it’s one more resort on the island. “The opening of these resorts has brought more efficiency across the board, because these guys can make use of economies of scale to operate at low cost,” Pennicook says. “They’ve brought even more attractive prices than the traditional all-inclusive.” So traditional all-inclusives like SuperClubs properties have to adjust their prices as well, or offer more attractive services and amenities—or both.

To that end, SuperClubs has undertaken a rebranding of its resorts in Jamaica, renaming the Grand Lido Negril to Breezes Grand Resort & Spa Negril, and Grand Lido Braco to Breezes Resort & Spa Rio Bueno. Pennicook says the decision was inspired in part by a survey of agents and past customers. “Research among Breezes agents and among past guests led to the decision to rebrand across the board…. What kept coming back to us is that the most popular brand is Breezes, because it’s in the middle of the road, if you will,” he says. “The Breezes price point is falling right in place with where today’s traveler wants to go. Even the market that goes after luxury is looking for a deal, so that’s more in line with the Breezes price point.”

But the dip in prices won’t result in a decline in services and amenities, Pennicook says. “We are not only expanding the Breezes brand, we are elevating it…. I would hasten to add that the only thing removed from the Grand Lido Super Inclusive Package now that we’re Breezes Negril are manicures and pedicures, dry cleaning and, in the case of 24-hour room service, which was available to every category, now will be offered to only people in the high room categories. Another way of saying it is the things removed from the package are minimal,” he emphasizes. “We’re still serving the premium brand drinks, the same bars, the same watersports.”

Though the change marks the end of the Grand Lido brand, its legacy lives on in the services and amenities that the renamed resorts have inherited. In addition to Breezes signature restaurant, Munasan, which serves teppanyaki and sushi, Breezes Grand Resort & Spa Negril will continue to offer guests an au naturel beach, plus the Blue Mahoe spa, both former elements of the Grand Lido Negril. At Breezes Resort & Spa Rio Bueno, returning guests will recognize the traditional Jamaican village style, French restaurant Piacere, sauna and fitness center, and golf course. And one new element falls right in line with current luxe trends: a hotel-within-the-hotel called Braco Village at Rio Bueno. Set on the former au naturel beach, the property comprises 52 beachfront suites, as well as a clubhouse open for dining 24 hours a day with a full-service bar.

Among the newcomers to Jamaica’s all-inclusive market is Secrets Resorts, which broke ground on its first property on the island at the end of last year. “Despite a downturn in tourist arrivals in other Caribbean countries, Jamaica ended 2008 with a 4 percent growth in tourism over the previous year,” explains Kevin Wojciechowski, v.p. of sales and marketing for AMResorts, which handles sales, marketing and brand management for Secrets Resorts. “This fact, combined with its illustrious natural beauty, premium tourism offerings and consistent appeal, make Jamaica a destination of choice for Secrets.” For instance, he says, the new Secrets Wild Orchid and Secrets St. James resorts will offer clients convenient access to attractions like Dunn’s River Falls, the serene Blue Mountains, and golf courses including White Witch, Half Moon, Tryall, Three Palms Ocean Course and Cinnamon Hill. Jamaica’s abundant and affordable airlift also sweeten the deal.