Seven Big Developments in Caribbean All-Inclusives

The view from a Premium Ocean View room at Melia Nassau Beach, which will soon become Melia Baha Mar.
The view from a Premium Ocean View room at Melia Nassau Beach, which will soon become Melia Baha Mar.

An all-inclusive resort is still considered a desirable attribute by the majority of vacationers, according to the MMGY Global 2014 Portrait of American Travelers. It also appears that the younger the client, the more desirable it becomes, with nearly two-thirds of Millennials and well over half of Generation Xers checking that box in the survey.

The good news for these and all fans of the all-inclusive experience is that new resorts have opened over the last few months, more are on their way and established properties are sprucing up or positioning themselves to accommodate your niche clients, such as “green” travelers, the romance market and girlfriend getaways.

Here are some of the latest developments, beginning with a hotel that will be part of the highly anticipated Baha Mar mega-resort.

THE SOON-TO-BE MELIA BAH MAR: Travel Agent recently spent a night in Nassau, The Bahamas, at Melia Nassau Beach, which will soon become Melia Baha Mar. The name change will not be official, however, until after the resort complex opens in March. Melia still needs to complete the second phase of its ongoing renovations before it gets the official Baha Mar stamp. That phase will include a complete makeover of all guest rooms.

“I don’t want people to go to Melia right now and think that’s Baha Mar because Melia is not ready yet,” says Paul Pusateri, COO of Baha Mar. “When Baha Mar is ready and Melia is ready, we will launch them together as one and that’s where Melia helps us and we help Melia. That’s where we thought we get the best advantage.”

Occidental has launched its Romance Rewards program. Pictured: Occidental Grand Punta Cana
Occidental has launched its Romance Rewards program. Pictured: Occidental Grand Punta Cana

We stayed in a Premium Ocean View room, of which there are 180 here. Ours was a Club Level room on the ninth (and highest) floor. Club Level rooms can also be found on the seventh and eighth floors. Also, anyone staying in any of the hotel’s suites gets Club Level privileges, including access to a cool private lounge on the fourth floor. It has two huge, flat-screen TVs and windows offering incredible views of the ocean. This is also where Club Level guests check in.

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME FROM AMRESORTS: From Apple Leisure Group subsidiary AMResorts, the newly built Dreams Dominicus La Romana in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic, is set to open in October. It will be the 15th property for the Dreams Resorts & Spas brand. In addition to enjoying ocean views and beach access at the resort, clients will be able to visit the island of Saona, a government-protected nature reserve, just 30 minutes away. AMResorts will have eight properties in the Dominican Republic under five of its brands upon the resort’s opening. Santo Domingo-based Mirage Group are the promoters of the resort.

“[The Dominican Republic] continues to be a priority for Apple Leisure Group, as we expand our presence in existing markets while seeking new areas for growth,” says Javier Coll, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Apple Leisure Group.

In December, AMResorts opened its first property on American soil (and 36th overall) — the new Dreams Sugar Bay St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The hotel company assumed operations of the Sugar Bay Resort & Spa on July 1, at which point the resort began renovations to bring the property to brand standards. The project included upgrading all guest rooms, with 100 of the nearly 300 rooms updated to Preferred Club level.

Couples and families with children can enjoy the benefits of the brand’s Unlimited-Luxury experience and amenities that include secluded beach access, three interconnecting pools with caves and waterfalls; activities such as mini golf, a bumper-boats pool, tennis, snorkeling, non-motorized watersports and beach volleyball. The Dreams Spa by Pevonia offers a wide selection of treatments and hydrotherapies. The resort also offers a fitness center, wedding gazebo and reception spaces.

Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort achieved Silver certification from Earthcheck.
Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort achieved Silver certification from Earthcheck.

BARBADOS RESORT TARGETS ‘GIRLFRIENDS’: Mango Bay Hotel, a 76-room resort in Barbados, is looking to attract more girlfriend getaways and bachelorette celebrations. Guests can enjoy the convenience of walking less than five minutes to the posh Limegrove Lifestyle Centre, home to such global luxury retailers as Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Cartier and Burberry, among others, making Mango Bay a prime target for groups of women who love to shop. Mango Bay’s Elements Spa offers ladies added indulgence, with a range of beauty treatments inspired by techniques from around the world.

Other daytime diversions at Mango Bay to keep girlfriends having fun include watersports such as waterskiing, Hobie Cat sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, wakeboarding, pedal boats, a glass-bottom boat ride and a catamaran sail to snorkel with the turtles — all paid for as part of the resort’s all-inclusive rates.

A Mango Bay vacation includes hotel accommodations, all meals, afternoon tea, all local and brand name drinks including glasses of wine, use of the onsite gym and nightly entertainment. Winter rates start at $650 per room, per night, based on double occupancy for travel through April 30. Summer rates start at $525 per room, per night, based on double occupancy for travel May 1 - December 14.

OCCIDENTAL OFFERS ‘ROMANCE REWARDS’: Occidental Hotels & Resorts, which has properties in the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America, recently announced the launch of its new Romance Rewards program. Specifically designed for agents and wedding planners, as well as meetings organizers, this program will reward the brand’s loyal partners for each wedding or wedding group booking made at select Occidental properties.

A Preferred Club Deluxe Ocean View room at Dreams Sugar Bay St. Thomas
A Preferred Club Deluxe Ocean View room at Dreams Sugar Bay St. Thomas

“We hope these rewards will reinforce how much we value our travel agents and planners,” says Jaime Buxo, managing director of Occidental Hotels & Resorts, in a written release. “Their continued support is key to Occidental’s success and we truly appreciate all of their efforts in generating group bookings.”

Romance Rewards can be earned for each wedding or group that is booked. Agents and planners will receive $25 for such bookings at Allegro Resorts, $50 at Occidental Grand Resorts, $75 at Royal Hideaway Playacar and $100 for group accommodations for weddings at Occidental Hotels & Resorts.

To participate in Occidental Romance Rewards, travel professionals can sign up at and earn a $50 sign on bonus. The program’s booking process can be learned by attending a live or recorded educational seminar at

Wedding Group rewards are based on 10 or more rooms at select Allegro and Occidental Grand Resorts, or Royal Hideaway Resort and requires a group contract booked through the Occidental Romance Department. Romance Rewards are paid out on registered bookings after clients have traveled. They can be redeemed and used immediately or used for payment of co-op functions such as tag ads and bridal shows throughout 2015. These rewards are not applicable to the “Complimentary” or “Simple Love” wedding packages.

ARUBA’S DIVI RESORTS MAKE CLEAN ‘GREEN’ SWEEP: For the first time, all five Divi Resorts properties in Aruba have achieved Silver certification for 2014 from Earthcheck, the world’s largest certifier of sustainable travel and tourism operators.

Alex Nieuwmeyer, managing director, Divi Resorts Aruba called it “a testament to our company’s commitment to environmental responsibility. We have been working diligently to ensure that our resorts operate in accordance with internationally accepted standards for sustainability while, at the same time, continuing to optimize our guest experience.”

In order to become Silver certified, the properties were required to meet measurable standards for key environmental indicators such as energy and water consumption, total waste production and commitment to their community, among other criteria.

It is the third year in a row that Divi Aruba and Tamarijn Aruba are receiving Earthcheck’s Silver certification. Joining them this year are the Divi Aruba Phoenix Resort, Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort and the Divi Dutch Village Beach Resort.

JAMAICA’S SANDALS CARLYLE STAYS WITH THE BRAND: Sandals Resorts International (SRI), parent company of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts, recently announced that its Montego Bay-based Sandals Carlyle will remain a Sandals-branded resort following consultation with guests. SRI Chairman and Founder Gordon “Butch” Stewart had previously revealed plans to transition Sandals Carlyle in Jamaica to the Grand Pineapple Beach brand, but reversed the decision after speaking with the company’s returning guests. Sandals Carlyle currently boasts one of the highest returning guest percentages in the region.

“Sandals Carlyle is without doubt one of our best loved hotels both within our company and among our guests,” said Stewart in a written release. “Over the years, it has gained a hugely passionate fan base. Rebranding Sandals Carlyle was a decision we had to make jointly with those guests. We had been discussing the rebrand for a long time and the rationale was sound but ultimately they spoke and we listened.”

It was also announced that the resort, which enjoys a buzzing location on Montego Bay’s famed ‘Hip Strip’ just moments away from the city’s famous shopping, dining and nightlife, will undergo a series of minor enhancements. One of the brand’s original acquisitions in 1985, the 52-room resort has an intimate beach, three restaurants and nightly entertainment.

HYATT SPENDING FIRST WINTER IN JAMAICA: Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, in partnership with Playa Hotels & Resorts, officially entered the Caribbean all-inclusive market in December with the opening of the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall and Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay. The former Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall underwent an $83 million enhancement and expansion project. Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall focuses exclusively on adults, while Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall caters to guests of all ages.

COCONUT BAY TAPS NEW GM: Kevin Hughes has been appointed general manager of St. Lucia’s Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa. In his new role, Hughes will oversee the daily operations and a staff of more than 300 people. Hughes’ hospitality career spans 30 years. He was the director of food and beverage at Coconut Bay for two years prior to being appointed GM. 

Previously, Hughes was the executive director of food and beverage at the Wyndham Resort, Crystal Palace Casino Nassau, Bahamas, for four years and also served as director of F&B at Sandals Resorts in Jamaica and St. Lucia.

“During Kevin’s tenure as food and beverage director he has overseen the renovation and expansion of our four restaurants and six bars and putting new menus and services into place,” said Mark Adams, Coconut Bay’s president and CEO of Beach Resort & Spa, in a written release. “Most recently he was instrumental developing Capri’s new La Luna alfresco private dining experience.”