Luxury All-Inclusives Have Arrived

Sandals South Coast
Sandals South Coast

Over the past few years, I have made it my mission to explore the luxury all-inclusive resort market. I have been asked over and over if luxury exists at the all-inclusive level. I can now answer that question: yes, it does. As you know from the price for these vacations, they aren’t cheap, and they shouldn’t be. So let price be the first marker to establish if the resort can deliver on the promise. Also, sell the value of luxury all-inclusives as a fixed cost, not as a bargain getaway. Set that expectation up front. Some other key factors should be:

* Airport transfers should be swift. Guests shouldn’t have to wait for the next flight to get in.

* Check-in should be simple and timely. If it takes half a day to get from airport to your room, you’re starting your vacation on a bad note.

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* Breakfast should be served with real eggs, quality bacon and fresh juices. Fatty, burned bacon is a bad sign.

Drinks should be served in proper glasses except by the pool, where they should be served in plastic that looks like glass, not Dixie cups.

* A premium should not be charged for steak and lobster.

* Desserts should be original and fresh and unique to that restaurant.

Turn-down service should be a standard service, as it is in all luxury hotels.

Overall service needs to be at the highest levels. This cannot be bought, it has to be instilled into the DNA of the resort and consistently monitored.

I recently spent time with Butch Stewart (above, left) and asked the Sandals chairman how his resorts are reaching these levels. Two things came out loud and clear. One is that he is never satisfied with today’s product; he is always looking at the needs of his guests in the future. Second, he is more proud of the back of the house than he is of the front of the house. Money can buy you aesthetics and location (and Sandals has some of the best) but it won’t buy you excellence in operations. That’s what makes the difference between an OK all-inclusive and a truly luxury experience.

My message is that luxury all-inclusives are the real deal and you should be selling them as a luxury experience. You just have to do your homework and match your client to the resort that meets and exceeds the expectation of that guest.

Enjoy your summer.

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