|Sandals' plans to expand to the Riviera Maya topped the news at the recently-concluded Caribbean Travel Marketplace. // Photo by Freeimages.com/Leonel Suriano.|
Travel Agent recently returned from our coverage of the Caribbean Travel Marketplace and came back with a handful of juicy news.
From Sandals Resorts International's first planned expansion outside of the Caribbean to the latest development in the ongoing Baha Mar saga, Travel Agent brings you the hottest Caribbean news to come out of the recently-concluded conference in The Bahamas.
Sandals Is Expanding to Mexico
After more than a decade of speculation, Sandals Resorts International will officially be expanding to Mexico. Here's the latest on the company's plans.
During our coverage of the Caribbean Hotel Association's (CHA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace in The Bahamas, Travel Agent chatted with Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals, and learned that the Jamaica-based company will be expanding out of the Caribbean for the first time in the form of a Sandals resort in the Riviera Maya.
Stewart told us he expects ground to break by the end of the year. Stewart says it will be a new build and will be located "further north" of Playa del Carmen.
This was the first time Stewart shared specifics on the expansion following his father's recent announcement at the 14th Annual Sandals Travel Agency Recognition (S.T.A.R.) awards on December 4 at Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa in Jamaica. It was at that show that Gordon "Butch" Stewart, Sandals Resorts International chairman, told attendees that Mexico was the future.
"I thought it was interesting. Mexico has some nice all-inclusive resorts at a lower price point. They do not include as much as Sandals, like snorkeling and scuba, and most do not have as strong of a brand as Sandals.," says Michael McHugh of Dream Makers Vacation Services in Lancaster, PA. "It will be interesting to see what happens to the Mexico market when Sandals arrives. A Beaches resort would be great—many resorts in Mexico do not have water parks on property. We look forward to sending our clients to Sandals in Mexico."
It has also been reported that Sandals is eyeing a second Mexico property in Cabo San Lucas, but Travel Agent was unable to get this confirmed or denied by Sandal's public relations team by press time.
Buyers Emerge for Stalled Baha Mar Project
Bahamas Tourism Director General Joy Jibrilu told media at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace that there were several potential buyers for the stalled Baha Mar mega resort.
Although Jibrilu did not reveal any of the names of potential buyers for the $3.5 billion resort development, local newspapers in The Bahamas have mentioned Mohegan Sun as one potential suitor for Baha Mar.
Island Routes to Expand to St. Kitts, Cancun
Cancun is especially interesting, since Island Routes is owned by Sandals Resorts International CEO Adam Stewart. Stewart already told us Sandals will be expanding to the Riviera Maya, Mexico, with groundbreaking expected to begin by the end of the year. Could this open the door for a potential Beaches Cancun?
Also, agents should keep an eye on St. Kitts. Island Routes, for the most part, only has operations where there is either a Sandals or Beaches. There is currently neither a Sandals or a Beaches in St. Kitts, yet Island Routes will be expanding there as well. Perhaps Sandals is considering expanding to that destination too?
By the Numbers
There were 243 supplier companies at this year's Caribbean Travel Marketplace. There were 591 delegates reprsenting 28 countries. There were also roughly 11,000 pre-scheduled appointments.