Barbados: Back to Work

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With renovations on the rise and optimism all across the industry, Barbados is quickly becoming one of the Caribbean’s hottest destinations, making it a natural choice for our annual Editors’ Hot List.

All across the Caribbean, the economic downturn slowed and even cancelled development and renovations at many hotel and resort properties. But in Barbados, several properties have resumed projects aimed at high-end clients. Could this be a sign that times are changing?

Yes, says Sallie Rawlings, senior director of corporate communications for Travel Impressions. “In any economic downturn, redevelopment and construction is a key indicator of improvement in the economy. The development in Barbados signals the beginning of the end.

“The product improvements at both the Fairmont Royal Pavilion and Tamarind will undoubtedly have a positive impact on enhancing Barbados as a leading quality upscale Caribbean destination,” she continues. “Generally speaking, whenever any hotel/resort reinvests in the quality of their product, the destination as a whole benefits.”

redefining luxury Emmalene Turner, director of sales and marketing at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion Hotel, Barbados, agrees. “Everybody recognizes that they’re competing way beyond Barbados. You’re going to have loyal repeat business amongst all good hotels, but we all recognize that there are lots of choices out there, and we don’t want to become complacent and assume everyone is going to come for the next 40 years.” Even in times of tight budgets, she says, “we want to attract that new high-measure client that we haven’t done before. We need to continue to invest and not be complacent about Barbados.”

The Fairmont’s own renovations are due to finish this month, and are designed to add even more luxury to one of the island’s most widely recognized luxury products. That strategy is a popular one on the island, Turner explains, but not because of the recession. “One of the things we’re very aware of is that the Caribbean has in recent years lost a bit of [UK] market share to other destinations, places like the Indian Ocean,” she says. “The UK is our primary market and the U.S. is a secondary but very key market—one we’re looking to develop. But for the UK market, the Indian Ocean has been going through a popular phase in the last couple of years, and we’re very aware that the Caribbean generally has lost its market share.”

To get it back, Turner says, Fairmont is pumping up its high-end amenities by adding a new room category—a big step for a property that formerly offered only one type of accommodation. “For many years, we had one room category only. It was a great advantage for the trade; people loved us because it was so easy to sell—not 27 room categories,” she says. “The trade loved us keeping it simple, and we deliberately did that. We’re the only hotel on the west coast that has every room on the oceanfront—literally on the ocean, no ‘standing on one leg, looking through a palm tree’ to see the ocean.”

But though the Fairmont’s existing rooms worked for its existing guests, they weren’t helping to bring in new business. “One thing we felt we were missing was that suite product that the high-end guest is looking for,” Turner says. So the Fairmont extended its ground floor rooms forward, toward the beach, turning them into jr. suites with walk-out beach access. Each of the 24 new jr. suites measures 750 sq. ft. According to Turner, the only reason they’re called jr. suites rather than suites is due to the lack of separation between the living area and the bedroom. “When you walk into one of our guestrooms, you immediately see the ocean, and it’s the most incredible view. Separating the living area from the bedroom, you’d lose that. So technically, it’s a jr. suite because it’s not subdivided. It’s not reflected in the quality or size.”

The new jr. suites also offer private terraces, ideal for outdoor dining with a photo-perfect ocean backdrop, and personalized butler service. Booking a jr. suite also earns your clients “fast track” service from the airport, including a personal escort through faster, VIP-only immigration and customs lines, as well as private check-in and check-out options.