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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Mexico Oasis Hotels & Resorts

Cancun is a hotly competitive market for all-inclusive resorts, but Oasis Hotels & Resorts has carved out a niche by remaining compact, focused, local and diversified – and committed to the travel agent community.

In all, Oasis has eight all-inclusive resorts in Cancun and nearby Tulum, as well as two urban hotels in downtown Cancun. Enrique Klein, vice president-sales and marketing, said the group has managed to stay competitive over its 22-year history by “staying on top of market conditions and customer preferences by reading and addressing what the customer is looking for in vacation travel.”

For Oasis, diversity is a priority. Properties are tiered by price, concept and target markets. The Pyramid, set within the confines of the Grand Oasis Cancun, is the most luxurious, reflected in its restaurants, amenities and quality of furnishings. A notch below that are the Grand Oasis properties and then Oasis. The recently introduced Oasis Lite category includes two property offerings, said Klein, with “great amenities and services at great price points.” And, typical of Oasis’ efforts to leverage the proximity of its resorts to one another, the Lite properties are nearby “sisters” to Grand Oasis resorts, so that guests on a budget can enjoy many of the amenities and services of the more upscale options.

The two urban hotels – Smart Cancun by Oasis and Oh! The Urban Oasis – also offer contrasting styles and price points. Oh! The Urban Oasis “is more upscale, but the [two] hotels are connected by a walkway,” said Klein. “Both are great for business travel, but we also find leisure travelers coming who want to be where the action is.”

Cancun’s Grand Oasis Sens, a resort for guests 21 and older, provides amenities like large terraces, personal plunge pools and a beach club.

The Grand Oasis Palm and sister resort Oasis Palm focus on welcoming children. They share a 50,000-squarefoot children’s area packed with age-appropriate activities. Parents can stay with their kids or, if they wish to play golf or enjoy a spa treatment, have them supervised. All beach resorts offer a “Kids Eat and Play Free” program for children 12 and younger when staying with two adults. The brand’s off-the-beaten-path resorts, Grand Oasis Tulum and Oasis Tulum Lite, now feature a new KiddO Zone and renovated Kids Club.

All the resorts place a premium on entertainment, but that offering is highest at The Pyramid and Grand Oasis Cancun, which hosts well-known performers like disco queen Gloria Gaynor and such rock legends as Kool and the Gang.

Oasis also aims to distinguish itself with innovative programs and amenities. For instance, the group shares a fleet of 250 Smart cars available for rent at a nominal fee. Those cars come in handy when guests take advantage of Oasis’ Grand Runaway Program, which enables them to patronize 50 restaurants and bars at sister properties. “It’s important to note that TripAdvisor lists two or three of our restaurants in its top 10 for Cancun,” said Klein. “We are very serious about our cuisine, with concepts like dining in the dark, different ethnic restaurants and so forth.”

Looking ahead, Klein said that while Oasis is open to expansion, “we have our hotels at a place right now that is really appealing to agents and customers and at the cutting edge of where the product should be.” He added, “We have invested over $100 million in the past few years in rooms, restaurants and bars, entertainment and back-of-the-house improvements. We now offer almost 3,200 rooms – a full 10 percent of the available rooms in Cancun and that gives us a lot of brand equity.”

OASIS ENHANCES ITS AGENT PLATFORM

To help travel advisors more seamlessly sell and market its resorts, Oasis recently relaunched its agent platform. “We have created a platform to provide agents with anything they need to sell the hotels and be knowledgeable,” said Enrique Klein, vice president-sales and marketing.

The site offers streamlined training programs, generous rewards and simplified tools that enable travel professionals to easily navigate Oasis’ offerings. Agents who register can access Oasis’ higher commissions and other rewards, view all consumer offers, discover perks for group bookings and book fam trips with special year-round rates.

Agents can also download marketing resources like brochures, resort fact sheets, videos, customizable flyers and more; and even book stays directly. The certification program provides a comprehensive overview of everything Oasis offers so agents can feel confident when selling the product.

The site is part of Oasis’ stepped-up effort to reach agents, which includes a fam program that invites agents to visit four resorts on a complimentary basis for up to five nights. Those staying four or five nights can stay at two resorts of their choice and will be asked to complete three site inspections. Agents staying for three nights receive accommodations at one property; they need to complete one site inspection at their home resort and do a site visit at a second one. Agents can book fams from April 17 through June 30.

Tips for a Healthier Hotel Room

REDUCE CONTACT WITH GERMS Bedspreads are notorious for holding germs, which is why many hotels use duvets with removable covers that are easy to launder. If your property doesn’t have duvets, request upon check-in that your bedspread be laundered. You can also reduce your exposure to germs by using antibacterial wipes to wipe down commonly used objects, such as television remotes, doorknobs and telephones.

IMPROVE AIR CIRCULATION Paint, furniture and cleaning products degrade the quality of the air inside because they are often made with toxic materials such as formaldehyde. And poor indoor air quality can cause headaches and fatigue. If weather permits, Dr. Chopra said, opening a window in your hotel room to allow for circulation can improve air quality. Or, choose a hotel that uses nontoxic cleaning products — the property’s reservations desk should be able to tell you if that’s the case.

USE A DAWN SIMULATING ALARM CLOCK While the hotel’s alarm clock will wake you, Dr. Chopra said that waking to sudden loud noise was a stressful way to begin your day. He suggested traveling with a dawn-simulating alarm clock, which gradually transitions your room from a dim glow to full brightness and helps you wake up more naturally. “You can buy one of these alarm clocks for less than $30, and they are big in improving sleep quality,” he said.

MAXIMIZE NATURAL LIGHT Light is the primary driver that aligns the body’s biological clock and sleep-wake cycle, Dr. Chopra said. “You want to rely less on artificial lighting and more on natural light, which can help improve your energy, mood and sleep when you travel,” he said. A simple way to get more natural light is to request a hotel room with a window that opens out to a street, rather than another building. Also, keep the curtains in your room open during the day so that natural light can stream in. Come nighttime, unplug the alarm clock and other electronics that emit sleep-disrupting artificial light.

WATCH THE IN-ROOM SNACKS Those tempting goodies in your room’s minibar can sometimes be loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients. “Eating these processed and sugary foods is hard on digestion and can cause your energy levels to drop,” Dr. Chopra said. He advised traveling with healthy snacks such as whole fruits and raw and roasted nuts.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts

When Karisma Hotels & Resorts Executive Vice President Mandy Chomat was asked what he attributed the company’s ongoing success to, he wasted no time with his answer. “The philosophy was always to deliver a better all-inclusive experience,” he said. “One of the key objectives was to go after the market attuned to exceptional food and service, which is what we’re known for.”

But Chomat stressed that was just part of the equation. “The other objective was to train a distribution system of agents that would be different from anything else out there,” he said. In 2008, Karisma created the Gourmet Inclusive Vacation Consultants (GIVC) program to attract these high-caliber travel advisors, who are paid 21 percent commissions.

In addition to those high commissions, GIVC agents are privy to exclusive offers for their clients that are not available to non-GIVC agents or OTAs. “We want to work with travel agents who want to market themselves to consumers, and we’re here to help with any marketing assistance they need,” Chomat. “Agents are really important to us, because we recognize that when somebody really knows our product and how to sell it, the consumer has a better experience with the product.”

Going forward, Karisma will need that travel agent distribution system more than ever, as it significantly expands its reach beyond Mexico’s Riviera Maya. In all, the company plans to add nine resorts to its portfolio of 26 properties, virtually doubling its room count from 4,592 to 9,424 by 2021.

“To stay in the game you have to expand,” Chomat said. “Up until two years ago agents could only sell us in the Riviera Maya. For agents to be successful we had to give them products to sell beyond a single destination.”

The company plans to debut three properties in Jamaica, two in the Dominican Republic, and one each in Antigua and Huatulco, Mexico.

The first of the three Jamaican hotels, an Azul Beach-branded resort in Negril, is scheduled to open its doors in May 2017. The first of the Dominican properties, Sensimar Cap Cana, is slated to come online in 2018. The Antigua property is slated to debut in 2018, and ground is expected to be broken on El Dorado Huatulco in 2017.

Plans are also underway for a second Nickelodeon property, the Nickelodeon Rivera Maya, which is set to come online in winter 2018. Additionally, Karisma is scheduled to break ground on eight family-friendly overwater bungalows at Generations Riviera Maya in 2018.

Beyond those expansion plans, Karisma recently forged a partnership with Margaritaville to create the all-inclusive Margaritaville resorts throughout the Caribbean. A groundbreaking for the resort is scheduled for 2017, with a launch at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in 2018.

“It’s an honor and point of pride for Karisma Hotels & Resorts to partner with Margaritaville,” Chomat said. “We see the deal as a testament to our exceptional quality of product, service and amenities, and to Karisma’s ongoing ability to exceed customer satisfaction, that a company like Margaritaville feels confident in working together to launch an entirely new collection of properties.”

However, it’s not as though Karisma rested on its laurels last year. In 2016, it unveiled 30 overwater bungalows, or palafitos, at El Dorado Maroma in Riviera Maya and debuted the Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana.

Chomat said the response to the palafitos, which are exclusively sold by GIVC agents, has been nothing short of phenomenal. “We’re seeing more travelers looking at our product who didn’t consider us before,” he said.

Response to the Nickelodeon resort has also been extremely positive, Chomat said. The property offers adults-only dining options, a luxury spa and such activities as yoga, snorkeling and tennis. For kids, there’s the Nickelodeon Experience, which features such activities as meet-and-greets with Nickelodeon characters, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and the Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In the final analysis, Chomat believes that Karisma’s success will continue to hinge on the travel agent community. “We really believe in the power of agents,” he said. “And we want to grow with travel agents who believe in us.”

Grandparents Stay Free at Generations Riviera Maya

Reiterating its commitment to introduce more families and multigenerational travelers to its properties, Karisma Hotels & Resorts unveiled a “Grandparents Stay Free” promotion at Generations Riviera Maya earlier this year.

Guests booking two-bedroom suites will receive a complimentary one-bedroom suite for grandparents 55 and older. The offer applies to new bookings and must be redeemed by a guest 55 or older.

Adults staying at Generations have access to all the facilities and amenities at the adults-only El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Casitas Royale, which adjoin the resort.

Karisma’s Nickelodeon and Azul Beach brands also cater to families, and the Nickelodeon Experience is available at Azul resorts.

Azul properties offer guaranteed connecting suites and those that can accommodate two adults and three young children. “We’re trying to make sure when families go on vacation at our hotels they have the ability to be together,” said Mandy Chomat, Karisma’s executive vice president.

The Generations, Nickelodeon and Azul brands also provide families with strollers, cribs, bottle sterilizers, baby monitors, bottle warmers and highchairs – and Gerber baby food is available in restaurants and through room service.

The Hoxton Amsterdam Hotel

The first two hotels from the Hoxton, both in London, earned the budget-friendly brand a reputation for creating spaces as cool to look at as they are to lounge in. The Hoxton Amsterdam, the first property outside Britain, opened in July 2015 with 111 rooms spread across five historic canal houses on the Herengracht canal.

The Dutch design firm Nicemakers created warm, welcoming interiors, and the large lobby, with its worn leather couches, classy U-shaped bar and mezzanine-level lounge, has become a favorite drinking-and-dining destination among hip Amsterdammers and visitors alike. Guest rooms, most with canal views, range in size from “Shoebox” to “Roomy,” and among three special concept rooms is the adorably named “Tubby” in the attic, outfitted with a bathtub.

Location

The optimal central location is a five-minute walk from Dam Square, from which the city’s central train station is less than 10 minutes away by tram. Buses and tram lines stop nearby, and most attractions are within easy walking or biking distance.

The Room

Arriving on a Friday night, my husband and I found the lobby abuzz with cocktail-sipping locals. But our lovely fourth-floor “Cosy” room — the middle price class — was serene with two tall windows overlooking the peaceful canal.

Cozy indeed, the stylish room had herringbone wood floors, heavy gray curtains, a large mirror on a wall, and a soft gray quilt atop a supremely comfortable bed with a padded leather headboard. A Wi-Fi-connected radio played soothing jazz melodies, and a bookshelf displayed secondhand novels and a pair of antique alarm clocks. Tucked in a nook decorated with handsome artworks was a small desk with a drawer that contained pens, paper and a corkscrew.

The Bathroom

The tiny bathroom had an eye-catching design with geometric-pattern ivory tile and snaking copper piping in the shower. But the shower’s small glass partition did not prevent the rainfall showerhead from soaking the entire floor. And those cool-looking copper pipes were scalding hot, so showering in the cramped stall required vigilance to avoid burns.

Amenities

A minifridge was stocked with complimentary milk and mineral water, and reception doubled as a shop selling snacks and drinks at reasonable (read: non-minibar) prices. Wi-Fi is free, as is an hour of phone calls to anywhere in the world. There are also bicycles available for guests’ use at no cost.

Dining

Waking up to find a complimentary breakfast bag hanging outside the door, delivered by “breakfast fairies,” was a delight. The paper bag appeared at my requested time filled with bananas, orange juice and cups of yogurt with blueberries and honey-nut granola from the local health-food chain Stach. Heartier plates are available from morning to midnight at Lotti’s, the hotel’s Italian-inflected restaurant, where everything from a full English breakfast to plates of celery-root ravioli are served beneath a retractable glass ceiling. The peacock-blue banquettes invite lingering, as do the ’50s-style swivel chairs at the bar, which also serves snacks like bitterballen, traditional Dutch beef-filled croquettes. A selection of menu items is available for room service at the same prices charged in the restaurant.

The Bottom Line

An excellent value with Dutch style and British humor, the Hoxton Amsterdam hits the sweet spot by balancing a hip vibe and relaxation.