The concept of all-inclusive resorts began in 1950 with Club Med.
What originally was an exclusive members'-only experience slowly opened up and became an inclusive experience that people came to associate with certain vacation locales such as the Caribbean. From the humble beginnings of thatched huts, this genre of the hospitality industry has spawned into luxurious villas and opulent amenities.
Most all-inclusive resorts are beautifully designed, with luxurious rooms, some with even in-room Jacuzzis and a well-thought-out list of activities included in the price that gives one a touch of adventure and local flair. Sadly, though, when it comes to the palate, they have a reputation for being sorely bland. There is the typical assortment of a variety of cuisines badly represented and poorly executed. The only upside seems to be the copious amounts of free-flowing spirit, in liquid form and general vibe.
Indeed, most visitors to these resorts expect this and are really quite happy with the just the uninhibited flow of alcohol. But, it does make me wonder — how much more effort would it take to make the dining actually appreciable?
So, when I was invited to experience the new Discovery Dining program that Sandals Resorts was rolling out in an effort to differentiate themselves and add to the guest experience, my interest was more than piqued. Dare I hope? Could it be that finally a brand was seeing the merit in plying guests in more than liquid form? [slideshow:807619]
Sandals Resorts has been pretty darn successful in maintaining its commanding position in the industry, despite the economic ups and downs, and, in the face of competition. Their fortitude and foresight in choosing locations that are in some of the most beautiful and unique areas in the Caribbean definitely lends to this success. More so, they have been leading the league in guest appreciation and customer experience. It seemed then, that the new program focused on elevating the dining experience would only further feather the fedora!
After spending three nights at the La Toc property in St. Lucia and testing this new program, I came away with restrained hope for a step forward in this industry.
So far, they have started on a good note. Sandals shows commitment to bring the diner a quality experience, whatever cuisine they may choose. They have enlisted chefs from the countries of each cuisine to lend authenticity. They have also elevated their offerings of spirits by offering top-shelf liquors.
They are actively engaged with local farms to source the produce for each of their kitchens. Where there are legal limits enforced, they abide and respect them while attempting to maximize the flavor of the local land. As aforementioned, they are also strengthening the authenticity of the execution in the international restaurants.
These measures give me hope.
However, Sandals' idea of providing the same offerings across their resorts lends consistency but does little to set them apart. Quality is a marginally diminishing utility of experience. Novelty is a not. New never goes out of fashion or unappreciated.
With a little more effort, commitment to differentiation, and at little expense, Sandals can very easily put themselves on a significantly higher pedestal than their competitors. Some of the areas that I think can be bolstered are the consistency of service across the resort, a redo of the menus in the international cuisine to be unique rather than above average run-of-the-mill, and most importantly, incorporating local cuisine as a staple rather than a flight of fancy.
During my stay there I had the opportunity to very briefly flirt with the local culture through the market trips, a tour of an estate including a study of the chocolate production, and a single afternoon’s indulgence in St. Lucian cuisine, which was simply the best meal I had during the stay. A cuisine that abounds with flavors and spices and the freshest catch of the day must be celebrated and accessible every day rather than one day a week.
It would be a very profitable strategy for the management to include the local cuisine in their restaurant and highlight the flavors of the region they are located in. For example, in St. Lucia, it would be a brilliant idea to employ a chocolatier and pastry chef to take advantage of what I was told was the simply the best cocoa on the planet. Even through 70 percent of the production is sold to Hershey's and Nestlé, there is so much more profit that Sandals and St. Lucia can take away from the table by creating custom delicacies.
Sandals Resorts are located in simply stunning destinations. To walk along the clean, beautiful beaches against a beautiful sunset is a divine pleasure that the resort affords its residents with the guarantee of safety. They have created a brand that resonates with the locals as well, who venerate the resorts and the opportunities they have created in the local economy as also for their inclusive treatment of staff.
Leveraging these powerful bonds with the local culture will be the turnkey strategy. Each location abounds with unique and rich resources and culture. Finding that distinctive balance of Sandals Corporate and Sandal Local will truly make the Sandals experience a heady and irresistible concoction.
I was happy to witness the wheels of change being set in motion. While there is always room to grow, this desire to continually improve and align closer to the client will be the strategy that distances the brand can further from its peers and ensure its position at the top!
To see some of the beautiful scenery and good food around Sandals Resort, click through our slideshow.
- Travel & Tourism
- Sandals Resorts