AT CARIBBEAN MARKETPLACE ON PARADISE ISLAND, THE BAHAMAS, it was difficult to find much time to visit the trade show floor in between the many press conferences and luncheons. But there was one booth we were told we had to see, even if it meant putting everything else on hold.
And we were grateful we did after speaking with Mike Hartman, owner of Tiamo (www.tiamoresorts.com) on the Bahamas' South Andros Island. Here's why agents should be eager to sell this unusual property, which has been a relatively well-kept secret since opening in 2001:
Accessible only by boat, the resort has just 11 beach bungalows, surrounded by 125 acres of wilderness. This definitely puts it in the eco-resort category. Every bungalow is set amid trees and bushes; during construction, as few trees as possible were removed. When your clients look out their window, they'll see nothing but exotic birds and coconut trees.
"My wife and I are from Key West, Florida, so we saw what development does to a beautiful place," Hartman told Travel Agent. "We didn't want that to happen with this property, so we removed only enough trees for the rooms to fit in."
Andros, west of New Providence (where Nassau is), is the largest but least commercially developed of all inhabited Bahamian islands. A channel called the South Bight separates South Andros from the northern part of the island.
We got the impression that Tiamo is similar in some respects to the well-established Anse Chastanet resort on St. Lucia (which we have visited), as both properties are secluded and luxurious but take away amenities in order to enhance the experience. For instance, there are no phones, TVs or Internet access at Tiamo. The goal is for the guest to forget about the distractions of the outside world and devote their time to relaxing with their loved one.
"We've even given people grief if we catch them wearing watches," Hartman jokes. Clientele is strictly couples, and Tiamo has 35 staff members for 22 guests. Each bungalow features a king-size bed and a wraparound porch.
Trained biologists on Tiamo's Nature Concierge Team take guests on daily excursions like snorkeling in the blue holes, which are like underwater caves. Guests can kayak or sail in the South Bight or view wild orchids and the endangered Andros rock iguana during a hike through several different ecosystems. Or if your clients don't want to move a muscle, they can kick back on a hammock and watch the tide roll in.
"We really want to improve our relationship with travel agents, but it takes a real discerning travel agent to sell our product—someone who is looking to provide their clients with a very special experience," Hartman says.
Tiamo gives 10 percent commission if agents pay by credit card. If they wire cash to the resort, commission is 15 percent. Rates range from $315 to $445 per person per night, depending on the season. All meals, island transportation, light-adventure activities and nature tours are included in rates. Contact Hartman at 242-357-2873 or [email protected]. —JOE PIKE