AMResorts’ Colette Baruth on What’s Next for All-Inclusive
By Joe Pike, Special Contributor
Colette Baruth, senior vice president of global commerce and distribution for AMResorts, is an avid cruise fan, but that didn’t keep her from humbly admitting the industry’s expected slow period could benefit the all-inclusive hotel market.
“I am a cruise fan, I was supposed to be on a cruise myself,” she said of the days prior to international travel being halted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March. “They all do a terrific job, but now the diversity of land products available in the Caribbean will be even more apparent to a lot of cruise clients.”
As part of an exclusive, follow-up interview to a recent discussion hosted by Apple Leisure Group Vacations earlier this month, CJI conducted a Q&A with Baruth, who expanded further on this point. She also shared her opinion on what the forecast of the all-inclusive hotel investment market could look like when international travel fully resumes in the region.
Here’s what she had to say.
Many Caribbean tourism representatives we spoke to recently admit that the cruise industry will take a little longer to recover from the COVID-19 travel shutdown than the hotel industry. Do you think the all-inclusive market, in particular, stands to gain?
All of the people in the cruise industry have challenges and I think (travel) agency business will be diversified to offer even more in the land space because of that.
What’s been really fascinating and really cool is the strongest part of this business has been social groups, whether it is destination weddings, family reunions or girls’ getaways, and that isn’t just going to end now.
Part of what we did to ensure that was we launched something called, “Move the date, keep the rate.” It allows clients to change the date. It is valid for both groups and FITs. If the price of the new date is cheaper, they get it at the lower price. If it is higher, they still get it for the price they originally booked for. So, essentially, a client can move their date from low season to high season at no extra cost.
Is there a lot of demand for the all-inclusive market because of the coronavirus? If so, has that demand affected length of stays and booking windows?
I think that families that aren’t traveling now, that may have taken a pay cut, have also seen that vacation bank grow. There is a lot of pent up demand. There are people who are in this dream phase. They are like, ‘I know I can’t go now, but now I at least have something to look forward to.’
The average length of stay is projected to be about a half day longer than the average (about three nights), which is a lot bigger than people would think. Even a half a day makes a huge difference.
We are seeing stays of four nights increasing to 4.75 nights and stays of five nights increasing to 5.8 nights. It varies based on the destination, but purchasing behavior is changing. But, obviously, the longer the stay, the better.
With booking windows, I would say that is related to the carriers and the destinations they serve. So, in terms of air capacity, we have seen people go from booking 30 days out to 60 days, to 90 days out.
Can you tell us about any projects in the pipeline? If you can’t share details, can you tell us what already-existing AMResorts brands are expected to draw the most clients when travel fully resumes?
We have a high number of projects that are in the pipeline, but all are in different phases. Some we may have signed a contract for the design, but perhaps that doesn’t mean the architectural contracts have been finalized.
For us, from a portfolio perspective, our primary brands going into the reopening will be both the Dreams [Resorts & Spas] and Secrets [Resorts & Spas] brands. That is where we see a lot of interest. Zoetry [Wellness & Spa Resorts] is going to be a little different in that they are all boutique properties.
Lastly, can you please tell our readers about the recent flip-flip of brands between the Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana and the Now Larimar Resort properties in Punta Cana? Did it have to do with the different price points of the two resorts? Also, can you please tell us of any other notable changes in the company’s portfolio?
[Switching the names of the two Punta Cana hotels] had nothing to do with price point and more to do with families versus couples. That’s just one example of the way we have used this time for upgrades. Our attitude during this time was let’s get everything done.
One example of something that is brand new will be a new addition to the Now [Resorts & Spas] network in the Riviera Maya. It opened about a month before this happened. In the meantime, extra facilities and amenities have been added. In general, we are excited to see what the future holds for the all-inclusive market.