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St. Kitts Marriott ResortFebruary 26, 2007 By: Laura Watilo Blake Travel Agent
This resort opened in 2003 and made it possible for the island to do niche marketing
Compared to other Caribbean isles, St. Kitts, with its lush rainforest and unspoiled beaches, has remained virtually undiscovered for some time. A favorite with travelers who seek it out for its quiet, laidback nature and genuine Caribbean flair, St. Kitts is now on the verge of discovery, as the Kittitian government focuses its effort on developing tourism on a mass scale and promoting leisure activities. In fact, the tiny island is expecting record-breaking tourist arrivals when it hosts the ICC Cricket World Cup next month.
Accommodating so many visitors might have been difficult
without the addition of the 537-room
Marriott Resort and Royal Beach Casino in 2003. Not only has the resort helped
increase the island's room capacity, the Marriott name makes it easier to
attract more visitors.
"Marriott has given St. Kitts, if not a household name,
then at least more recognition in the marketplace," says Robert Kelly, the
director of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority in
world of a difference in terms of name recognition and name brand."
After the hotel's first year of operation, St. Kitts saw a
32.6 percent increase in stay-over visitors, according to an economic report
from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), released the following year.
"The 'full' opening of the Royal St. Kitts Marriott
Beach Resort and the re-opening of the St. Kitts Golf Course at Frigate Bay
changed the tourism landscape in St. Kitts and Nevis and introduced 'niche'
marketing, especially for meetings and conferences, romance tourism (weddings
and honeymoons), and sports," the CDB report stated.
Later in 2004, the resort—owned by Royal St. Kitts Beach
Resort Ltd., and located along the Atlantic coast on the windward side of St.
Kitts, received the Hotel of the Year award from the government's Ministry of
There's no question that the big, bustling resort offers
something for everyone—from families to honeymooners, golfers to gamblers—with
accommodations and amenities to match.
The resort's five-story main building, called the Frigate
Bay House, has 237 guest rooms with either golf-, resort- or ocean views. All
rooms are oversized and well appointed, and most have large, private balconies
furnished with chaise lounges and other outdoor furniture. The one-bedroom
Royal Suites on the fifth floor (featuring ocean or golf views and ranging in price
from $825 to $1,025 per night), as well as two Presidential Suites, are
reserved by request only and are not available over the GDS.
"We use them for the high rollers in the casino,"
says Randall Doty, the director of marketing for the property.
The most requested accommodations, though, are not in the
main building but in the three-story garden houses that surround the three
swimming pools between the main building and the beach, Doty says. These units
have an additional 234 rooms that are especially well suited for families and
can be configured as one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. "They are
perfect for families or two couples traveling together," he says.
"The three-bedroom units can sleep up to 12 people because the couch has a
A Family Affair
The key to the Marriott's success, though, has undoubtedly
been its full range of amenities and activities for kids and adults
contributing to its reputation as a "
cruise ship for landlubbers."
Children between the ages 5 to 12 can participate in Kidz
Club activities (free with inclusive packages) including games, contests,
handicrafts and painting. The entire family can come together in the evening
for movies on the big screen in a room filled with big, overstuffed chairs and
Golf at the adjacent Royal St. Kitts Golf Club can also be a
family affair. Introduced last year, Marriott's "Kids Golf-4-Free"
program enables kids up to 15 years old to play for free when accompanied by a
paid adult. In addition, kids receive a free golf lesson when accompanied by an
adult who is paying for a lesson. Director of Golf Greg Downer makes sure that
all golfers feels comfortable on the course by offering a range of clinics for
men, women and children. He says golf lessons are essential for families that
want to "play and stay together."
"The worst thing you can do is learn with a
spouse," Downer laughs. "I've seen more fights when the husband is
trying to teach his wife to golf."
If guests do need to cool off after hitting the links—or in
lieu of golf altogether—the soothing Emerald Mist Spa can help restore
tranquility. The 15,000-square-foot facility features eight oversized treatment
rooms, a private couple's room and men's and women's wet rooms equipped hot and
cold plunge pools, saunas and steam rooms infused with eucalyptus oil. By far,
the most popular spa treatment is the Kittitian massage, known elsewhere as a
Swedish massage, says Rachel Stormes, the spa director. While all spa
technicians are adept,
"very, very good," according to hotel staff.
In keeping with the family-friendly theme, the spa offers a
Princess for a Day package, which includes a manicure, pedicure, glitter
make-up, an up-do hair style, lip gloss and sunscreen. Men can get the Coral
Reef Gentlemen's Facial, designed to ease irritation from shaving and sun
When it comes to food, guests can expect the same quality
and service they are used to from the Marriott brand. The eight restaurants on
the property ensure a variety that can appeal to all palates—whether it be
La Cucina (are reservations recommended).
With the recent arrival of Executive Chef Andreas Mahl, a
past recipient of the prestigious five-star rating from Mobil Travel Guides,
the menus are in the process of being reconceptualized. First, the food and
beverage team is working to raise the quality of the food ("You have to
get the basics right," Mahl says). Second, "It was important for us
to bring the local food to the next level. It's simply seafood, fish, prawns
and good lobster with some strong spices," Mahl adds. Third, "We're
trying to realign the food with the atmosphere, the uniform and the
music," says Kevin Anderson, the food and beverage director.
The big drawback to selling St. Kitts is the hurdles
required in getting there and back, agents say.
"To get to St. Kitts out of
is extremely difficult," says agent Barb Mazzola, who works for Carlson
Wagonlit Travel Pearl Travel Inc. in
"That is why people go to Punta Cana and Cancún."
With a total travel time of nearly 12 hours and two
connections in some cases, travelers tend to balk, especially people with
"Nobody wants to fly, unless it's nonstop," says
Becky Veith, a Conde Nast Traveler-recognized Caribbean travel specialist in
"I don't have many people that request St. Kitts; I generally suggest it
to people. But, as soon as I tell [clients about the layovers], they say,
'forget it.' They want to get somewhere, and get there fast."
Getting anywhere in the Caribbean has become more of a
challenge since January 23, when the
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which requires
to present a passport upon re-entry into the country. According to Melanie
Lucardi, the director of marketing for Libgo Travel Inc., vacationers are now
shifting their attention to destinations like the U.S. Virgin Islands and
"With the passport issue, it becomes more of a
difficult sell," says Lucardi. "If clients have kids who don't have
passports, it may affect their decision to go to St. Kitts. It definitely
Lucardi says that places like
taken a proactive approach by offering free passports for those who book a trip
to the former British colony. While she hasn't seen a similar offer from St.
Kitts, Lucardi does frequently keep in contact with the St. Kitts Tourism
Authority in order to disseminate news and other promotions to Libgo's retail
travel chain Liberty Travel and GoGo, its wholesale division. "If the
tourist board says they want to do an island-wide promotion, that information
is communicated to our product support team and disseminated to agents,"
Despite its drawbacks, Lucardi says travel to St. Kitts is
on the rise. "Over the last couple of years, we've seen double digit
increases. I would say that a portion of that is related to the introduction of
the Marriott, but I see growth coming from some of the other properties on the
island as well."
The key to selling people on St. Kitts, agents say, is to
understand the type of client that the island would appeal to, and what
features would be most important to them.
"We get more requests from seasoned travelers who are
looking for a true overall experience that allow them to travel outside of the
hotel to experience different things," Lucardi says. What she calls a
"niche destination on a smaller scale," St. Kitts offers many
different kinds of experiences, whether it's the Timothy Beach Resort
("More of a value hotel that is great for families who don't want to spend
a lot of money," she says), an all-inclusive stay at the Marriott property
or Ottley's Plantation, a small luxurious inn tucked away in a mountain
hideaway with breathtaking views.
An Island Worth Discovering
Agents agree—once people decide on traveling to St. Kitts,
they are pleasantly surprised. It's all a matter of educating them on this
"It's not going to be the most top-of-mind," says
Lucardi. "But the reality is, there are going to be people who don't want
to just go to
or the D.R. They've been there, done that."
For clients who do go, Lucardi recommends dining at Turtle
Beach Bar and Grill, "one of those places you don't dress up for,"
she says. On the island's southeast peninsula, the waterfront bar and
restaurant specializes in seafood and barbecue dishes, such as fresh grilled
fish or lobster.
"That to me is a place to kick back and relax if you
just want to chill and look at the view."
Upcoming Island Events
Upcoming events on the island may require booking the
property well in advance. Kelley says there are rooms still available during
the ICC Cricket World Cup in March. Another busy time is during the 11th Annual
St. Kitts Musical Festival, June 21-24. This year, Grammy Award-winning artist
Michael Bolton will be among the top acts performing.
Fast Facts St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Royal
Beach Casino 869-466-1200 www.stkittsmarriott.com For questions and VIP requests,
contact Randall K. Doty, director of marketing at 869-466-1200, 340-514-7584
(cell) or via e-mail at [email protected].