Still Super at 30

SuperClubs’ ‘No Hassle Holiday’ gets better with age

By: Bryce Longton

It’s dusk, and it’s still warm enough to wear a sundress. In fact, it will be warm enough to wear a sundress sans even a light coat until the sun rises again for another day in Jamaican paradise. I’m sitting at a table, toes in the sand, watching the acrobatic adventures of the trapeze artists at Hedonism II. A buffet filled with lobster, shrimp, jerk chicken, chickpea salads and gorgeous dessert after gorgeous dessert is behind me, waiting for me and my plate to dive in. This is John Issa’s dream, fulfilled.

30 years ago, John Issa invented the “No hassle holiday.” His all-inclusive resorts celebrated their triple decade anniversary with a blowout at Hedonism II in Jamaica and marked several renovations on various properties.

Hedonism II named for the hotel it took over, whose nickname was Hedonism has a special spot in John’s heart, as it’s the first hotel he made all-inclusive. However, John’s not the only one with a soft spot for “Hedo” as everyone calls it, Hedo has one of the highest return rates of any hotel around, they have over a dozen couples that have stayed at the hotel 50 times or more, and watch out for a huge celebration in April 2007 when one guest is making his 100th visit they will be naming a suite after him.

The all-inclusive idea is taken very seriously by Issa, and hence by the hotel staff. John wanted a place where you didn’t have to remember to “stick a few dollars in your robe to tip the guy who pulls your beach cot out.” That being the case, no staff member will take a tip, so that can be a relief for your clients who constantly wonder how much and when to tip a staff member.

As innovative as the idea was 30 years ago to make a resort where everything was included food, service, room Issa has not become stagnant. He now has a few properties that are specifically not all-inclusive, for those who want the SuperClubs experience without feeling stuck with a menu or a preset number of days. Rooms in Ocho Rio is one such property, and it celebrates its two-year anniversary this month.

Several properties have been renovated, or are in the process of being renovated. Breezes Runaway Bay is closed until this Christmas so that 30 beachfront rooms and 48 veranda suites can be added. Runaway Bay is also adding an infinity pool, new personal plunge pools (on each veranda), new LCD flat-screens, a new lobby and a new spa. The Grand Lido property is replacing all the bathtubs with seven-head showers, Hedo is getting some new furniture and the Bahamas Breezes is getting refurnished with Jamaican mahogany, while Curacao is getting all new bathrooms.

The latest SuperClubs property is being built in Panama, as part of a larger development. The property will be a Breezes and will be welcoming plenty of new business as it opens in 2007.

Issa is also doing his best to head off any loss of business due to the new passport initiative in January. At the Grand Lido Negril property, for example, if Jamaica is the first stamp on a guest’s passport, that guest will receive a $100 voucher for the spa.

With properties springing up, renovations under way and a wide variety of clientele from the all-inclusive family resort to the racy Hedo swingers weeks (in January and February) to the more elegant couples resorts SuperClubs is catering to everyone, including those who want non-inclusive vacations. It definitely seems likely that these properties will be celebrating another 30 years.