Sandals is tackling the downturn by continuing to expand. This month sees the opening of Sandals Emerald Bay in the Bahamas, a luxury new all-butler suite resort. BTN finds out more from Karl Thompson, UK Managing Director, Sandals.
BTN: What kind of year do you envisage 2010 to be for Sandals?
KT: In terms of sales we are hoping to see a growth on our 2009 figures. Last year ended very positively for us and so we are planning to build on this success in 2010. January will see the opening of our stunning new all-butler suite resort Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas. With its exceptional standard of service, quality accommodation and top-class facilities, we are anticipating that this new resort will be hugely popular with returning guests and new customers alike.
BTN: What are you hoping to achieve at this year’s Caribbean Marketplace?
KT: We are hoping to use the Caribbean Marketplace to increase our brand awareness further and to establish our Luxury Included® portfolio. We want to show people how we go above and beyond the standard all-inclusive concept offering guests world-class accommodation, exemplary standards of service, exceptional cuisine choices, all-premium brand drinks including an exclusive partnership with Beringer® wines and all land and water sports including PADI scuba diving and golf.
BTN: What in the way of plans or developments are currently underway at your resorts?
KT: Sandals Emerald Bay is opening in January 2010 and is set to be the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Sandals Resorts, boasting all oceanview, all Butler Serviced suites, a Greg Norman designed championship golf course, and a world-class marina.
We are also constructing a new Greek Village at Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa, including 26 over-the-water suites, the first of their kind in the country. The Greek Village will feature a total of 200 suites including Rondovals, swim-up river suites and one-bed plunge pool suites. The village is scheduled for completion by the end of 2010.
Furthermore, we recently introduced a new stand-alone tour company, Island Routes, which brings the best destination experience for visitors to the Caribbean, all with the Sandals stamp of approval!
We have also recently launched a new partnership with Martha Stewart, who has designed an exclusive range of six stunning wedding themes available at all Sandals and Beaches resorts.
BTN: As the leader in luxury all-inclusive, how would do see the concept evolving?
KT: We have changed the perception of the all-inclusive market by offering the customer more than they expect. There can be the perception that ‘all-inclusive’ can compromise on quality, but at Sandals and Beaches we offer a luxury product.
At our newest resort Sandals Emerald Bay, every room will be a suite and every suite will be butler serviced. This obviously completely surpasses what is on offer at most all-inclusive resorts.
At all of our Sandals and Beaches resorts we will be placing more focus on the consumer in order to ensure that they have maximum enjoyment of the facilities. We are also continually reviewing trends in the industry i.e. within food and beverage in order to ensure that all our services are of the highest standards possible.
BTN: In November you won a massive nine awards at the World Travel Awards. What is it you are doing to reign supreme?
KT: Keeping standards high is paramount and we recognise that day-to-day upgrades and improvements are as important as major renovation projects in remaining the industry leader. From new amenities and refurbishments, to new suite categories, we are always elevating the brand to new heights to provide guests with an outstanding product and an unparalleled experience.
We are always looking for ways to remain innovative and to stay at the forefront of the industry, as is exemplified by the over-the-water suites we are building at Sandals Grande St. Lucia – a first for the island.
With the launch of our luxury tour and excursion company, Island Routes, we can ensure that guests also receive a top quality product when going off site, making the whole holiday experience of the highest standard possible.
BTN: What is your strategy for dealing with the global downturn?
KT: It is clearly a worrying time for consumers and people are shopping smart and taking advantage of deals that really represent good value for money. We have introduced various offers such as our current ‘save up to 40%’ in order to entice customers. We also put a strong focus on our repeat customers, who represent over 40% of our business, by offering them incentives and exclusives.
Additionally we ensure that we have attractive incentives for agents to help to drive sales, and host regular FAM trips so that their product knowledge is first class.
BTN: What trends in tourism do you predict for 2010?
KT: We are preparing for the economic upturn with the opening of Sandals Emerald Bay, and continued focus on delivering a quality product and great value for money to our customers. We will also continue to focus on our partnerships with the trade.