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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the hospitality industry in myriad ways, hoteliers have had to strategize on how to incorporate new norms and regulations. In the all-inclusive segment, some of those changes are likely to have a positive long-term effect, according to several industry insiders.
With so much change in the air, it’s no wonder that there was an entire session devoted to the evolution of the all-inclusive hotel concept at SAHIC, the annual tourism investment conference focused on Latin America and the Caribbean (which took place virtually for the first time this year).
One of the speakers was Fernando Fernandez, vice president of development at Apple Leisure Group, which through its AMResorts division operates brands including Secrets Resorts & Spas and Dreams Resorts & Spas.
“The pandemic has forced all of us to change the way we do business, and for AMResorts it was no different,” he said. “We had to redefine the all-inclusive resort experience with even higher safety and hygiene standards as a commitment to guests’ well-being.”
Following government-mandated guidelines is necessary, of course, but adding extra layers of safety — as well as consistency — has also been a goal, according to Enrique Calderon, COO of Grupo Posadas, which owns Fiesta Americana, Grand Fiesta Americana and Live Aqua, all of which are part of its La Coleccion resort group.
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“We’ve worked with the World Travel & Tourism Council,” he said, noting that the company has also partnered with 3M and the ABC Medical Center in Mexico City to further enhance its hygiene policies. While he acknowledged that every country has its own approach to pandemic safety and prevention, Calderon said that travelers can expect a nearly identical experience to hygiene and safety when the company opens its first all-inclusive property outside of Mexico, the Live Aqua Punta Cana, which is slated to debut in the Dominican Republic in February.
“We’re basically implementing the same level of protocols,” he said.
Marilyn Cairo, vice president of global sales for Premier Worldwide Marketing, the marketing representative for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, said that all-inclusive hotels are especially well-positioned during these challenging times.
“We’ve seen the all-inclusive concept actually resonate with travel agents and their clients in a more positive way during this time,” she said. “Travelers are now more eager to have everything they need like accommodations, entertainment and dining in one location.”
We’ve seen the all-inclusive concept actually resonate with travel agents and their clients in a more positive way during this time.
Improving the ExperienceWhether it’s more flexible cancellation policies, promotional packages or revised food and beverage offerings, hoteliers employ multiple tools to not only entice travelers to visit, but also to keep them safe during their stay.
Grupo Posadas, for example, also offers Travel with Confidence Protection, a travel insurance plan that can be purchased at check-in.
Marriott International has also revamped its all-inclusive approach, noted Alex Fiz, area vice president, Caribbean and managing director of all-inclusive at Marriott International.
“We have enhanced our cleaning standards and are carrying out a higher frequency of disinfecting protocols throughout the hotel,” he said. “In addition, we’ve made numerous operational adjustments, such as adding signage and barriers, spacing out furniture, and removing shared-use items, as well as the use of new mobile technology options including mobile key, mobile dinner and full use of the Marriott Bonvoy app.”
RELATED: How to Stay Safe at All-Inclusive Resorts During the Pandemic
Refocusing on SustainabilitySustainable tourism, long a goal for the hospitality industry, initially took a back seat as the world focused on stricter hygiene protocols. But hoteliers are getting back to more eco-friendly practices, according to Calderon.
“During the first month that we reopened Fiesta Americana Condesa, our expenditure from disposables was triple what we used to have in any other month,” he said. “So that really scared us. But a few months later, we went back to what we used to spend before. Posadas has a very strong sustainability committee. We have this culture of saving the beaches, saving Cancun, saving Puerto Vallarta.”
Karisma Hotels & Resorts has also made progress, according to Cairo.
“Right now, it’s important that we maintain a healthy balance between sustainability initiatives and guest safety, and we can often do that by being smart with our amenity offerings,” she said. “At the new Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Cancun, for example, our minibar concept is easily personalized so that guests can choose which drinks and snacks are provided each day. This allows them to customize their experience while not being wasteful with offerings.”
It’s important that we maintain a healthy balance between sustainability initiatives and guest safety, and we can often do that by being smart with our amenity offerings.
What Will be Permanent?At least a few of the current practices are likely to continue in the post-pandemic world, according to most hoteliers interviewed. Tech-related features such as digital menus, hotel apps and text messaging, for example, are both efficient and eco-friendly.
Calderon also predicts that sanitation practices will remain.
“I think the cleaning processes will stay as it is,” he said, noting that the recent challenges have strengthened the all-inclusive concept’s positioning in the marketplace. “The all-inclusive experience is greater than ever, because we’ve found different ways to adapt. Now, the operation is even more effective.”
The DetailsAMResorts www.amresorts.com
Karisma Hotels & Resortswww.karismahotels.com
La Coleccion Resorts by Fiesta Americana www.lacoleccionresorts.com
Marriott Internationalwww.marriott.comSAHIC www.sahic.com