Kevin Froemming, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of Playa Hotels & Resorts // © 2015 Playa Hotels & Resorts
Feature image (above): Playa Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt Hotels are reimagining the all-inclusive experience, most recently with Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. // © 2015 Hyatt Hotels Corporation
There has been a shake-up in the all-inclusive resort market recently, thanks to Hyatt Hotels Corporation. The megabrand’s $325 million partnership with Playa Hotels & Resorts has resulted in Hyatt’s own line of all-inclusive hotels — Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara — throughout Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, all shaped under the company’s ethos of “the evolution of all-inclusive.”
Most recently, the brand introduced Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, which kicked off with a grand opening in February. Kevin Froemming, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of Playa Hotels & Resorts, was on-site to celebrate the company’s innovative approach and continued expansion.
“Our growth plan is extremely aggressive,” he said. “We’re actively engaged in looking at acquisition opportunities or newbuild sites. Our plan is to add 10 or 15 resorts in two years.”
We sat down with Froemming to discuss how Hyatt’s new brand is evolving and advancing the all-inclusive market.
What differentiates Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta from other Mexico all-inclusives?
This hotel has the only private beach anywhere in Puerto Vallarta, and it’s protected in a cove; it’s also the best beach in the region. The cultural significance of the resort goes back some 50 years to when “The Night of the Iguana” with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor was filmed in this area.
One of the things that is part of the evolution of the all-inclusive is the idea that, first and foremost, you’re part of a destination. When we look at the resorts we’re adding, we consider the significance of the destination.
Each hotel we build will be different because we’ll start with the culture, the people and the things that will make it unique, and we’ll build experiences to that. What I love about our slogan of “the evolution of all-inclusive” is that we’re never finished. When you listen to your customers, they will tell you exactly what they like and don’t like and how you can improve.
What can guests expect in terms of service at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta in particular?
We believe in “service from the heart.” It started when we purchased this property when it was Camino Real from Fernando Garcia Zalvidea, founder of Real Resorts. He had his staff put their hands over their hearts when greeting guests because they were shy or their English wasn’t that good, and when we saw that, we embraced it.
Our expectation of our staff is more than just their understanding of and being efficient at our standard operating procedures. Disciplines are important for standards, but you have to go beyond the disciplines and tell your staff to individualize service and listen to what the customer is really saying.
We are willing to take chances with our staff to get the ultimate successes, and we stand by them while they try different techniques. They’re empowered to solve tricky situations, whether it’s a problem or a unique request.
What does it mean to have the Hyatt name behind you?
There are still a vast amount of people who haven’t experienced the all-inclusive product or have a predisposition to what it is. Hyatt is a traditional European Plan hotel brand that has millions of customers in its database, and many have never experienced all-inclusive.
With a company like Hyatt behind us, those clients are willing to take that leap of faith, and we’re bringing new customers into that segment of the marketplace as well as growing the customer base.
Hyatt has a lot of disciplines in place — in terms of quality, attention to detail and preparation of food — that help us deliver high-quality service on a regular basis.
How is Hyatt working with travel agents?
You wouldn’t think of Hyatt as an agent-centric company, but because Playa is the driver behind the all-inclusive experience and the branding, we made the decision to say that the only way we’re going to get our message out quickly is to spend 90 percent of our money at the trade level. So we advertised heavily in trade magazines and got our message out through word-of-mouth, agent trips, site inspections and fams, and got tour operators to bring their largest clients.
Agents earn their own loyalty points with us and cash incentives up to $160 per booking, on top of the incentives they’re getting from a tour operator they work with.
We’ve only been in existence for a little more than a year, but recognition at the trade level is phenomenal. I trust the trade, and I trust them to carry the message. I’ve never bought into the idea that the days of travel agencies are numbered. Agents are evolving in the way they are marketing themselves, and they reach customers in a way we can’t.