By Alexander Britell
Royal Caribbean opened eyes earlier this year when it submitted a letter of intent to purchase The Bahamas’ Grand Lucayan resort, the first move of its kind for the company.
Now, the company is shedding some light on the decision, which is part of what will be a major new push across the region to go beyond cruise ports into full-fledged “destinations.”
Royal Caribbean has announced plans to team with ITM Group to form a new “destination” company called Holistica.
The company will create an “inclusive model for destination development that works holistically to meet the needs of coastal communities, local governments, and land, sea, and air travelers,” according to a statement.
What that means, particularly the nod to “land” travelers, is a look beyond mere cruise ports and into something with a bigger local economic impact and a broader customer base.
“The continuing growth and rising popularity of cruise vacations make it clear that the sustainable development of coastal destinations, including the thoughtful evolution of existing ones, is in the travel industry’s best interest,” said Michael Bayley of RCL. “We have spent five decades learning what works and what doesn’t, and we know the potential of strategic development to deliver extraordinary guest experiences and meet the needs of local communities.”
And the centerpiece of the first “destination” will be a $275 million project to transform the aforementioned Grand Lucayan and Freeport in The Bahamas.
“We’re not just re-opening a resort in Freeport,” Bayley said. “We’re looking at everything from transportation to utilities to local culture to responsible sourcing to entertainment to… well, to everything. It’s an ecosystem, not a property.”
That will be the first of a wider global push that will include “destinations” in Caribbean locations including Costa Maya, Mexico and Roatan, Honduras, according to the company.
The plan is to create destinations that are “accessible to all travelers, including land and air vacationers,” the company said.
“The timing is right for a venture of this type,” said Mauricio Hamui of ITM Group. “A collaborative development approach, paired with meaningful private financial resources, gives local destinations the opportunity to grow the right way.”
The new venture will be a 50-50 partnership between RCL and ITM Group, headquartered in Miami.
ITM is one of the world’s leading cruise port operators, with Caribbean ports in its portfolio including Havana, Costa Maya and Antigua..
“A well-designed destination brings economic benefits to communities and cultural enrichment to travelers, while creating the least possible disruption to the human and natural environment,” Hamui said. “There is a way to do these projects inclusively, collaboratively, and sustainably – and those are the characteristics this new partnership is meant to embody.”