What does luxury mean in the Caribbean? Is it tranquility? Is it sheer beauty? Is it service? What does luxury mean in the new travel era? Is there such thing as “Caribbean” luxury? To find out, we talked to some of the Caribbean’s top experts on hospitality, from Sandals Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart to longtime Round Hill general manager Josef Forstmayr. Here’s what they said.
Josef Forstmayr, Managing Director, Round Hill Hotel and Villas, Jamaica
“Caribbean Luxury is based on a very unique sense of SPACE and CULTURE. The close proximity of our beautiful, culturally diverse islands and attractive people to some of the wealthiest countries in the world have established a “playground for carefree fun and simple indulgencies” with easy access. Less is more, all supported by smiling and great service personnel. This is very appealing to a somewhat wealthy and stressed culture up north…”
Linda Smith, Jamaica Villas
“Is there such a thing as Caribbean Luxury? Absolutely! In abundance! Caribbean Luxury is an oxymoron that handily defines the best of two worlds. The environment is a tropical paradise of sunlight and warmth, palm trees and flowers, 12-hour daylight and fabulous food. Absent is the tension of the high-speed life back home where a watch is not jewelry, it’s a necessity. But tangible material luxury is not compromised in vacation villas. Indeed, many have astonishing style with the iconic added element of extraordinary comfort. The oxymoron is living in a mansion and putting your feet up.
If the definition of luxury is lavish frills, opulence and extravagance, today’s Caribbean abounds in it. With enough money, we could all build luxury-laden homes, and countless grand homes do dot the Caribbean. However, topping the list of luxuries here are the people themselves. Jamaicans’ unique brand of friendliness, humor, and an intrinsic desire to please their visitors are a recipe that embraces guests with a genuine welcome from some of the most congenial people you’ll ever meet. As a Manhattan billionaire villa owner of a home in Jamaica expressed it, “I just feel happier the moment I step off the plane. For years, I’ve had a love affair with life here.”
How else is it different from mere brick and mortar luxury? It’s affordable. It can’t be stored in a safe deposit box. It can’t be lost or misplaced. Yet it is a precious gem, an experiential luxury rich in natural beauty, conviviality and peace of mind. From seven shades of blue views all day to stars that seem to be within reach at night, and sometimes moonlight that turns the sea to silver … all enhanced by an unexpected quality of service … Jamaica comes with luxuries of the good life we would all like to live.”
Roberto Casoni, EVP, VH Hotels and Resorts
Caribbean luxury is “waking up in paradise” surrounded by nature, knowing they are taking good care of it with respect and sustainable procedures. You are in a place where they make you feel special and unique, where your thoughts and requirements are always satisfied even before you ask, everything with passion and a smile. Luxury is also the sensation that you will never have the same experience ever again in other place, “only there!” and you problems are far, so far….
Ed Gannon, General Manager, Four Seasons Resort Nevis
“There is indeed such a thing as Caribbean Luxury and it is alive and thriving. In fact, there are many different forms of Caribbean Luxury. Four Seasons Resort Nevis delivers an authentic Caribbean Luxury experience, where our beautiful resort – with all the amenities of a world-class, up-market brand – is nestled in an idyllic setting and infused with the proud heritage of the friendly and engaging Nevisian people. Almost all of our staff are Nevisians, who are each dedicated to deliver an extraordinary level of service and hospitality every day. We are far from your typical cookie-cutter establishment, and these qualities are the foundation that we were built on, back when Four Seasons’ Founder Isadore Sharp first set out, 25 years ago, to create a luxury Caribbean island resort.”
Karolin Troubetzkoy, Executive Director of Marketing and Operations, Jade Mountain Anse Chastenet, St Lucia
One could muse about this for a very long time. For some of us, Caribbean luxury may be sitting on a deserted beach somewhere in the Caribbean, totally unplugged and just taking in the blue Caribbean Sea shimmering in front of us. The fact that we actually still have so many deserted beaches is a luxury.
Then some resort properties in the Caribbean, like our own Jade Mountain, strive to provide guests with the ultimate Caribbean luxury from an experiential level, whether it be through the landscape, architecture, design, quality of furnishings, level of service provided by the resort team or the type of activities and services we offer, for example making your own chocolate in the resort chocolate laboratory or having a whole beach or the resort yacht to yourself for a private dinner with a loved one.
If you are asking me as the President Elect of CHTA ( Term June 2016-2018), then I would have to say that we are aware that there is a perception in the marketplace that whilst there are pockets of excellence in the Caribbean, which are providing a Caribbean luxury experience, the overall Caribbean service levels and luxury experiences are not considered at par with other regions such as the Far East. This is a perception that we as a region we must change. Change must be affected through a commitment to a broad spectrum of educational opportunities and human resource training but also making available to Caribbean stakeholders the necessary finance to either enhance their existing product or build new. And Heads of Caribbean Governments must finally pay the attention to their tourism product that this industry not only deserves, but demands. But we are far from trying to copy other regions. Our mantra throughout must be authenticity and bringing out the genuine hospitality that is at the core of all Caribbean nations.
Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Chairman, Sandals Resorts International
“Luxury travel comes down to three things: time, freedom from care and exceeding expectations.”
Peg Walsh, Founder and President, St Barth Properties
A Caribbean vacation is the ultimate luxurious experience because of that more-precious-than gold leisure time spent in a glorious tropical setting. The very name St. Barth conjures up movie stars and moguls in multi-million-euro villas and superyachts, shopping and dining in chichi boutiques and bistros. And it’s all that. However, we see the real luxury is in the tiny, sophisticated island’s slower pace and experiences of sharing fiery Caribbean sunsets, listening to the sound of the surf and swimming in warm cerulean waters. Special travel experiences are treasured forever and much more than fancy cars, glittery jewelry and $2,000 purses.
Katie Rosia, General Manager, Palm Island Resort
Caribbean Luxury can be defined by the natural unspoiled beauty and the location of our private island surrounded by clear blue waters. The sense of serenity and peace add a special atmosphere to the place. A professional resort team, dedicated to going the extra mile and making every guest feel at home and very special are luxuries. The simplicity of local activities are luxuries in themselves —crab racing, cricket games consisting of staff vs guests, chef demonstrations, picnics on the beach, dinners at the heart shaped tree and more. The exceptional fauna on Palm Island—turtle hatchlings on the beach, our 90 Land Tortoises, our famous iguanas, our diversity of birds, variety of fish and stingrays and also luxuries. Our philosophy is to give our guests the most unforgettable, authentic experience with courtesy and a smile. Our luxury island resort is not focused on material things, but rather on experiences, relationships and the atmosphere.