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Hotels target staycationers with discounts, new product

Published:Friday | July 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Adam Stewart, chief executive officer of Sandals Resorts International, says empty rooms make no money. - File

Avia Collinder, Business Writer

In the nation said to have more drinking bars per capita than any other, the upscale pub, English-style, has made its appearance.

Being marketed primarily to local clients, the Prince of Wales pub was opened in the second quarter of the year by the Half Moon, a top-end resort at Rose Hall, Montego Bay, which, additionally, this summer has rolled out the red carpet for holidaying Jamaicans.

And it's not the only property.

Sandals Resorts International now has a 50 per cent discount on offer to 'staycationers' for the Emancipation period, available at all 13 Jamaican hotels.

Sandals chief executive officer Adam Stewart said deep discounts have helped the chain keep rooms occupied while covering overheads.

"A hotel room is not like an airline seat. Empty rooms means we are losing money," Stewart said.

The chain has been offering specials since the economic downturn, rolling out discounts of up to 70 per cent in 2009, and has continued this year with 65 per cent offers, he said.

In the pre-recession period, discounts were a maximum 40 per cent.

"It's not like the hotels are empty now," said the Sandals CEO, noting that occupancy in the 13 local properties currently averaged 90 per cent.

But discounting helps keeps guest volumes as high as possible, he told the Financial Gleaner.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says the outreach to local vacationers is now a formal programme, known as the 'Experience Jamaica' campaign, which runs until December, and for which the Jamaica Tourist Board provides marketing support.

"Not all rooms are discounted", Bartlett said, noting that hoteliers were motivated to participate as empty rooms mean losses, while discounting provided help with cash flow.

Carole Guntley, the tourism ministry's chief executive officer, said for hotels to qualify for support, the discounts have to be at least 50 per cent, and that the programme was family-oriented.

Stewart, whose chain offers family and couples-only vacations, said that discounts are available both to locals and visitors, but that Jamaicans have been getting the best of the deal because of their proximity to the properties.

The all-inclusive costs cover every charge including airport transfers to the resorts.

More than 100 hotels from the six resort areas have signed onto the 'Experience Jamaica' programme, up from 65 in 2009.

Stewart said the continuation of discounts for locals into 2011 was dependent on overheads, especially electricity costs, and rooms available, and therefore uncertain.

Half Moon's outreach to locals appears more permanent.

Replete with British flag, the pub's offerings include classics such as fish and chips, a selection of pies, steak and kidney, chicken and leek and stilton and vegetarian pies as well as English-Italian pizzas and daily specials.

"The Prince of Wales was created to offer Jamaicans another dining experience in Montego Bay: an authentic English pub experience," said public relations manager Maria McLaughlin.

The investment was not disclosed.

"The convenience of the location, the entertainment, promotions and activities that we will provide are being developed with a local audience in mind. It is an affordable place to come for lunch, to watch your favourite local and international sporting event, or for a casual dinner with friends and family," said McLaughlin.

Half Moon is a 400-acre resort where the rich - whether they be celebrities or socialites - sometimes find seclusion.

In July, as part of its local outreach, Half Moon also began issuing invitations for a high-end staycation.

"This summer an extraordinary vacation awaits you, with something every member of the family can enjoy," said the hotel in its promotions of golf, spa discounts, water sports, horseback riding, dolphin encounters, spinning classes, Sunday jazz and a hype zone for teens.

Half Moon is a branded, luxury resort located on a twin, crescent-shaped white sand beach, with 398 rooms including suites, cottages and villas.

The hotel, in 2009, finalised infrastructure and facility improvements including new suites, a 68,000-square-foot spa, a new Anancy Children's Village, a teen centre, and remodelling of its 18-hole championship golf course.