Following a merger with Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited, business for Playa Resorts & Hotels is coming along very well.
READ MORE: Playa's Froemming hails Jamaica expansion
The recent acquisition sees Playa managing a portfolio which includes four existing resorts - the 495-room Hilton Rose Hall, the 268-room Jewel Runaway Bay, the 250-room Jewel Dunn’s River and the 225-room Jewel Paradise Cove. It also includes an 88-room hotel tower and spa, two developable land sites with a potential density of up to 700 rooms and a hotel management contract for the Jewel Grande Montego Bay.
Hilton Rose Hall
The existing assets were previously managed by an external third-party operator but Playa assumed management of the assets on the closing of the transaction.
According to Kevin Froemming, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Playa Resorts, the recent acquisition of Sagicor puts Playa and its five new resorts in a position to dominate the all-inclusive market down in Jamaica.
“It [the acquisition] really diversifies us, and we’ve been a leader in Mexico for the last several years and this acquisition brings us into another major destination, one we feel comfortable about making the investment for,” Froemming told PAX in an exclusive interview.
Service from the heart
Playa prides itself on two key things, according to Froemming: providing the best service, and offering the best food.
While there are numerous all-inclusive resorts to choose from in destination, Froemming is confident that Playa’s portfolio will stand as a strong contender.
Jewel Grande Montego Bay
“It starts with selecting and training our staff to provide service from the heart,” Froemming said. “It’s something we live and breathe, and our guests feel at home when they’re here. People want to feel like they’re in a place where people truly care about them; where their needs are accommodated, and there won’t be any unexpected, negative surprises in store for them. Our business is not that complicated, but what it really comes down to is doing things well consistently over time for your customers and being laser-focused on that.”
The Playa standard
Playa Resorts & Hotels is consistent when it comes to certain amenities and features. The Kids Club provides various activities and spaces for kids, and as Froemming explains, the five resorts are hugely popular with teenagers as well, because they provide ample space to simply hang out and relax.
“One of the things we were most excited about when we took over these resorts is that they have a tremendous appeal to teens as well, because these are great places to hang out, meet people, socialize, and chat, and that’s what teens want to do,” Froemming explained. "Part of our plan is to continue to build on that and add more of these types of products.”
Jewel Dunn's River Paradise
Froemming predicts multigenerational travel to Jamaica will rise following the acquisition with Sagicor, given that all five resorts are family-friendly.
“In terms of setting ourselves apart, in Jamaica, there aren’t many family-friendly resorts," Froemming explained. "One of the things we’re really excited about is introducing those family-friendly options. The Hilton Rose Hall has a water park, and Jewel Runaway Bay, outside Ocho Rios, has its own waterpark. As we develop our brands, Jamaica will be even more family-friendly than it was in the past, and there will be new products that will make Jamaica a very attractive option.”
Playa puts agents first
“We regard travel agency distribution as a very high priority, and when we began four years ago as a management company, we launched all of our products through the trade,” Froemming explained. “Our first thought is always communicating with the travel agents and educating them on the products, and we will continue to improve the products of those resorts, and we will bring agents down to make sure they’ll fully experience what’s in store for them at these wonderful resorts.”
Jewel Paradise Cove Beach Resort
Playa’s current rewards program allows agents to earn commissions on bookings, as well as use those earnings towards trips of their own. According to Froemming, agents will have the opportunity to visit the properties via FAM trips.
“We’re very active in supporting agents who have the desire to learn more about a destination; who set themselves apart based on their product knowledge and destination knowledge, and for us, that’s a very big deal,” Froemming said. “We’ll continue to invest in travel agents in terms of their overall education and there’s no better education than getting down here and seeing the resorts and being able to tell the customer what they recommend. That sets an agent apart, and in the all-inclusive space, it’s never been more important to be able to talk about your differences because there’s more all-inclusive product than there ever has been before. Canada continues to be a really important market for us, and the travel agents are the driving force behind that.”
Rebranding: building on strong brands first
Part of Playa’s success comes down to it’s belief in strong brands, Froemming explains.
“For the Jewel products we have right now, we’ve made the decision that we will leave the brands in place until at least May 2019,” Froemming said. “People have been asking us if we’re going to be doing major renovations, but the beauty of these resorts is that they’re very good in terms of quality and what’s already there. Eventually we’ll rebrand some of them, at least one of them in 2019; I think the Jewel Runaway Bay makes an excellent Panama Jack Resort. Part of our strategy is to tie ourselves to some of these brands in order to create opportunities for travel agents.”
Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort
According to Froemming, the beloved Hilton Rose Hall will stay, but there will be some improvements in the near future.
The Hyatt Ziva is set for expansion, and a third waterpark will be built, making the resort even more attractive for families with small children.
“We are very appreciative of all of the support we’ve had over the years from our Canadian travel agents, and our goal remains to provide a bigger and wider array of products that will make it easier for them to sell and attract more repeat guests,” Froemming said. “We’re currently working on a travel agency booking engine that will allow agents to book with us directly or with their preferred tour operators. We want to make sure that we’ve provided them with all of the information they need, and one of the best things we can do is supply them with visuals and video so that when the agent is speaking with their customers, they have the confidence to sell that product.”